92 of 103 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2011
As we all know, a film's critical review is a subjective journey.
Many have universally praised Taxi Driver an American masterpiece.
In my humble opinion, it is Scorsese's crowning achievement.
I won't bother you a with a critical review of the narrative itself, the power of the performances, the lush cinematography not to mention the haunting soundtrack.
Lets get down to brass tacks with the Blu-ray experience:
The new 4K transfer and remastering ( under cinematographer Michael Chapmen and Scorsese's supervision ) looks fantastic. I can only hope for more studios to take their time when transferring vintage masterpieces. The clarity, color and detail even surpasses my last film-screening of this film at the Hollywood Cinerama Dome in the mid-90s. The soundtrack is presented in 5.1 DTS HD with wonderful results.
The special features are chock full of goodies, too numerous for me to list here fully:
I really enjoyed the "screen to script interactive", and also the "storyboard to film comparisons". Multiple documentaries are included in this single BR disc, including "Travis' New York " The changes of New York 1975 to Today" Multiple interviews and commentaries with both Scoreses and writer Paul Schrader + much more supplementary material.
The Picture Quality at 1080P was like peanut butter to jelly on my 52" LCD XBR, and switching the images to a 150" screen ( via Sony VPL-VW50 1080P projector ) was like adding a couple strips of crispy bacon to that peanut butter sandwich. If you are into HT and projection systems, this BR disc is made for you. Seeing New York City in the mid 70s presented in such detail and color was a visually arresting experience. The vibrant night shots really stays with you, vivid colors pop during those long tracking POV shots from Travis's cab. A museum quality documentation on NYC street-life during that period.
The packaging is robust, with a 3 section pullout-type case that holds the bonus lobbycards.
This is the definitive copy. ( at least until The Criterion Collection decides to give it a BR go ).
Yes folks, for a small price, its time to get into Travis's Taxi for a cinematic ride like no other.
66 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2002
The importance of Taxi Driver cannot be overstated. More than a well made film, the movie is a genuine character study of the highest achievement. The absurdity of the decade in which the film was made lends an incredible amount of reinforcement to the presentation. The "conspicuous consumption" lifestyle of the 1970's makes the cheapness of human life depicted in the film (prostitution, exploitation, violence) seem all the more engaging. A few of the more important, albeit subtle scenes that I feel make the character study so realized include the following (I would ask that any viewer of the film pay close attention to these scenes and try to interpret the subtle importance of them as they relate to the character):
- Travis is sitting in his apartment watching American Bandstand on TV. He is angered by the celebration of adolescent sexuality he sees and how "human" and accessible it is portrayed to be. In contrast, Travis is completely unable to conceptualize himself in this rite of passage, due to the self loathing image he has built up in his mind. Travis then sees an empty pair of shoes on the floor amidst the dancing couples, a stark metaphor for his inability to relate to the world he finds himself in.
- Travis, although seemingly articulate and confident about his emotional convictions in his journal entries, recognizes the impending disintegration of his mental state and decides to seek the advice of his colleague Wizard, in a last ditch effort to make sense of his feelings. Travis's somber desperation is evident in his discussion with Wizard and an attempt is made to address the situation. However, Wizard, who shares none of Travis's chronic isolationism, is unable to offer any helpful words to Travis, who is ultimately frustrated one last time in his final effort to salvage his sanity. In the closing shot of the scene, Travis tries to articulate his inexpressible frustrations, to which Wizard casually replies "you know... you're all right, you're all right". With his last attempt to make a human connection an utter failure, Travis is now locked into his path of destruction, a path that cannot be positively influenced by outside individuals due to his inability to express his feelings. It is a particularly chilling scene, perhaps the definitive example in the film depicting Travis's final fate.
- Travis is seen in his apartment room preparing for his confrontation with Senator Palentine. He speaks about his apocalyptic mission through his journal entries. However, his words portray a man unable to articulate himself even in his hour of destiny - "listen you f***ers, you screw heads, here is a man who would not take it anymore, who would.. not....." (starts over) "listen you f***ers you screw heads.....". This scene is very effective in that it illustrates Travis's inability to express his emotions with certainty, even when they concern convictions which he feels strongly about.
- Immediately after his attempted assassination of Palentine fails, Travis is seen driving to the tenement house where Sport hustles. Dazed, Travis is utterly absorbed by his psychosis, his face a portrait of a concentrated, murderous obsession. A pedestrian attempts to flag down his cab, but Travis blows right by the would-be customer, occupied only with the slaughter he is about to engage in. I feel that this scene perfectly capsulizes Travis's complete descent into madness.
This film was cheated out of the best picture Oscar by Rocky, which (although a fine film in its own right) is a film that anybody can love. In contrast, Taxi Driver is a film that many people would prefer to avoid due to its cynical portrayal of human life. However, it is often the ugly things in life which are the more relevant, more engaging, more compelling, more real.
59 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2007
The first disc features an audio commentary by Professor Robert Kolker. He analyzes the film's style and themes but tends to describe what we are seeing making obvious statements. He talks about the influence of Alfred Hitchcock's movies on Taxi Driver but in mind-numbingly boring way.
The second commentary is by the film's screenwriter Paul Schrader. He points out Travis' contradictory nature - he talks about purifying his body yet he also takes speed. There are several lulls during this commentary but he more than makes up for it with some excellent observations about the film and the nature of screenwriting.
"Original Screenplay" allows you to read the original shooting script and then go to the corresponding scene in the film.
The second disc starts off with "Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver." He talks about the genesis of the film and how hard it was to get a studio interested. Scorsese says that visually, everything is from Travis' point-of-view.
"Producing Taxi Driver" features Michael Phillips briefly discussing how he became a producer and how he got the script for Taxi Driver. When he saw Mean Streets, he knew that he wanted Scorsese to direct and Robert De Niro to star.
"God's Lonely Man" examines the theme of loneliness in the film and profiles Schrader, his background and it informed the script.
"Influence and Appreciation: Martin Scorsese Tribute" features fellow filmmakers Roger Corman and Oliver Stone along with actor Robert De Niro and others paying tribute to the man.
"Taxi Driver Stories" includes anecdotes told by actual New York cabbies who worked in the city during the `70s. Some of their stories are wilder than some that are in the film.
"Making Taxi Driver" is the excellent 70 minute retrospective documentary that was included on the previous edition. It takes a fascinating, in-depth look at how the film came together with most of the major cast and crew members returning, including De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd and Albert Brooks. This is excellent doc. with loads of information.
"Travis' New York" reflects on New York City of the `70s. The film's director of photography Michael Chapman points out that now the film is a documentary of what the city looked like back then.
"Travis' New York Locations" is a very cool featurette that compares nine locations used in the movie then with what they look like now and not surprisingly most them look very different.
There is a "Storyboard to Film Comparison" with an optional introduction by Scorsese.
Finally, there are several galleries with stills taken on location, for publicity purposes, shots of composer Bernard Herrmann's sheets music for the score and posters.
291 of 359 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2003
The ending of Taxi Driver has generated a lot of controversy and confusion because most people tend to assume that it's a simple continuation of the narrative of the film. In critical studies, however, the possibility is often raised that the end (after the the shoot-out scene to the end of the movie) is no less than Bickle's dying delirious imagination. I want to set forth the case that this is so.
First, at the end of the shoot-out scene, Bickle rolls his eyes backwards in the classic movie signature of death. Just before, of course, he put his blood-dripping finger up to his temple and mimed blowing his own brains out (after having failed with the empty real guns). Bickle is suicidal, dying, and will not recover.
Second, after this scene the camera pans across various news clippings on the wall of Bickle's room; these clippings describe him as a "hero" that saved a young girl. Also we hear the voice-over of Iris' parents saying that Bickle would always be welcome in their home for saving Iris. But think about real life crimes for a moment. When newspapers report about a man that goes on a shooting spree in a run-down part of town, do they really ever report them as "heroes"? Even if Bickle could explain to them why he did this (Iris' dad says he was in a coma after the shoot-out), would anyone really take a person like this at their word? And would Iris' parents really want to allow a murderous man a place at their table? What we have here is Bickle's fantasy about how he _wants_ the press and Iris' folks to interpret his actions, not a realistic view of how the world generally views such actions.
Third (along the same lines as #2), it's hard to imagine Bickle's buddies at the cabstand glossing over his rampage and treating him like old times. Really, if a co-worker of mine were involved in so violent an incident, I would probably not hang out with him so blithely. This is Travis imaginging that things are "back to normal" after getting out of the hospital -- a fantasy of peace.
Fourth, Bickle happens to find Betsy in his cab soon after returning to work. How fortuitous in a city of millions! But their conversation shows that she now respects him, considers him a hero like the newspapers and Iris' parents. Again, extremely unlikely -- especially given their history. In real life if she heard about the rampage (or recognized him trying to kill Palentine), that would only tend to confirm her earlier opinion of him as a depraved person. But here she also interprets his actions in the way he wants them to be interpreted (that he saved Iris from the human scum that were selling her) rather than how she probably would in real life. (Also note that the photography of this scene always shows Betsy's face from his viewpoint, floating in a dreamlike way in his rear-view mirror.)
Fifth, when Bickle drops Betsy off she seems uncertain, embarrased, and demure, and is obviously just on the verge of offering some kind of intimate apology. Instead she asks how much is the fare. He drives off without accepting a dime. This is Bickle's triumph -- he wins their relationship battle by rejecting _her_, and by being confident, independent, and morally superior. Typical subconscious inversion tactic.
Sixth, as he drives off, Bickle sees himself in the car's rear-view mirror, then adjusts it to see if he can see Betsy. As he does so, a violent wrench is given to the accompanying musical score. Then we see no one in the mirror at all as the credits roll to Bernard Hermann's haunting love theme. There's nothing in the mirror (except the rolling, ubiquitous city) because Travis is not there. Its symbolic of his death -- like that of a vampire -- that the mirror doesn't show his reflection. Travis is dead and we have just witnessed his last thoughts.
Travis is only a hero in his own mind. There is no hero in this movie. It does not have a happy ending. Travis continues to justify his own behavior and viewpoint to the last, and grants himself a kind of sainthood -- beatified by the press, Iris' parents, and Betsy's acquiescence.
The tragedy of the movie is deepend by this reading of its end. To my mind, this also makes the movie more coherent, since it's main theme is the psychological isolation of Travis Bickle. The end consumates his separateness. Others will never connect to his vision of himself as a master (rather than a victim) of circumstance, a protector of innocence, a scourge of evildoers, an instrument of God's judgement.
91 of 111 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2004
Directed by Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest films of the 20th Century. The story about a man drowning in loneliness that desperately seeks the approval of the social lives of those around him. He is Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro), who (as the film opens) gets a job as a cabbie because of the insomnia he suffers of. He prefers working nights (12 hour shifts), will take anyone anywhere, and still he can't seem to sleep. His point-of-view is an ingenius cinematic approach whereas it is viewed in slow-motion (which symbolizes his heightened observation). There are so many undercurrents within the film that even Bickle himself doesn't realize. There is an apparent prejudice against african-americans (the usual stereotype of them all being pimps or drug dealers - and ironically enough when Bickle finally does meet a pimp, he turns out to be white).
Bickle bides his time in a coffee shop where all the 'night shift' cabbies hang out. He listens to them ramble about imaginary women who give them $500 tips and their phone number to somewhere in South America. His attention wanders and his inability to socialize presents an awkward air that is at times difficult to watch.
Bickle eventually meets Betsy (Cybil Shepherd) who is an avid supporter of the presidential candidate Palantine. His former view of the inhabitants of New York as "scum" is finally changed when he meets a girl who "is not like the rest of them". He asks her out to a movie and it turns out to be porn. He knew it was porn (he goes to the same theatre every night he's off work), but he doesn't go for the usual reason people go, he gets no satisfaction out of it, it is as if he's punishing himself for having walked into such a place. He seems to not realize why she looks at him with disgust and eventually leaves and never wants to see him again.
Bickle is a "walking contradiction" whereas he sees the world as evil and wrong, but in his attempts at being accepted, he finds himself bending the rules of morality and becoming what he despises.
He comes across a 12-year old prostitute named, Iris (Jodie Foster), who he immediately likes, but the only way he can be near her is to pay for "half an hour". He does so, and despite her attempts to "make it", he tries to tell her that he's come to set her free from the life of prostitution. "Don't you want to get out of here?" he asks. "But it saves me from myself," she answers innocently. He leaves frustrated.
Bickle is (like the John Wayne character in "The Searchers") trying to rescue women who don't want to be rescued. It becomes his obsession that these women are being oppressed and that his goal in life is to set them free.
His obsession leads to violence when he purchases weapons and attempts to assassinate Palantine, but runs away almost as if, at the last moment, coming to his senses. But that is only the "dress rehearsel" for the climax of the film which is one of the most graphic scenes of violence ever filmed. It is shot in 'washed out' colors as if the ensuing violence has drained the blood from the film.
The famous line, "Are you talkin' to me? Well I'm the only one here," spoken to himself in a mirror, has been many times mimiced but the meaning can only be fully realized in this film. It is the voice of a lonely man amidst the crowd, a voice of sarcasm at his own worthless condition. The condition we all find ourselves in from time to time.
The film ends with Bickle meeting Betsy one more time as he is driving her home in his cab (by a chance meeting). Her look has changed from one of disgust to admiration and the viewer senses that this scene is not real. That it is either his final dying thoughts or simply a fantasy in his mind. It is Bickle finally finding redemption, finally finding his place in society. It has all been resolved and now he can lead a normal life or die happily.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2000
"Taxi Driver" is an effective, gritty work that is both a masterpiece and unforgettable. It is, I believe, the first movie that really showed the brilliance of Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader. This is a dark, disturbing journey into madness, realistically capturing the mean streets in all their realism. Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro), is a deep examination of a man falling deeper and deeper into the abyss of madness. Driven even deeper by what he sees in the world around him. Schrader's screenplay at times has the feel of a documentary, as does Scorsese's adaptation onto film. "Taxi Driver" vibrates with a realism seen in few movies. Maybe that's why it has stood the test of time triumphantly. Seeing this movie once is not enough, because you need to see it more than once to really get what it's saying, to truly understand it. Scorsese's film is gritty and at times, shocking, but not dumb or bloody just for entertainment. "Taxi Driver" explores through Bickle, the nature of crazy people, really getting into the mind of a lonely man who doesn't know much about the outside world because he seldom goes out to explore it. The film is always interesting, Scorsese brings it to life through the settings, camera angles and cinematography. The shoot-out at the end is one of the most brilliant ever filmed because it seems realistic, but not over-exagerrated, it's shocking, but we understand it. "Taxi Driver" opened doors for more filmmakers who wanted to make movies that didn't hold back, that were realistic in their representation of the dark corners of society. It stands as a brilliant work which will be studied and endured for years to come.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Robert De Niro's performance in TAXI DRIVER remains, after twenty-five years, one of the most powerful ever witnessed in an American film. It is almost shocking today that he didn't win the Oscar for Best Actor. The reason isn't hard to locate. Just as Shirley MacLaine lost in 1960 to Elizabeth Taylor when Academy voters thought the latter might be dying (obviously, she survived), so Robert De Niro lost in 1976 when Peter Finch, who had been nominated for NETWORK, actually died. I liked Finch in NETWORK, but today his performance seems to pale beside that of De Niro's. In addition to Henry Fonda's mythic performance as Tom Joad in THE GRAPES OF WRATH, it is almost inconceivable that his performance was not acknowledged at the time.
De Niro is in very nearly every scene in this film, and without a stunning performance in that role, you do not get a stunning film. Luckily, De Niro is unforgettable. Although his famous scene in front of the mirror (the "You talking to me" scene, which was entirely improvised) is rightfully celebrated, in every second of the film his presence dominates. I seem to remember reading years ago in an interview with screenwriter Paul Schrader that Travis Bickle was based very much on the narrator from Dostoevsky's NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND. If he didn't say that, I will. It isn't just that Travis seems socially out of place, but morally and metaphysically out of place. He doesn't seem to be a person with a genuine core, and at the end of the film, he seems equally capable of good or evil. He ends up doing good, but Scorsese has pointed to the arbitrariness of his actions. He could easily have assassinated the political candidate instead of the pimp. He ends the movie a hero, but an more an ironic hero than an anti-hero. In a flip of a metaphysical coin, he accidentally ends up a good guy instead of a madman.
In a way, this film is a group effort, with tremendous performances by Harvey Keitel and Jodie Foster, and a tremendous score by the legendary Bernard Herrmann (CITIZEN KANE, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, PSYCHO). But the main credit for this film should go jointly to De Niro, Scorsese, and Paul Schrader. Unbelievably, neither Scorsese nor Schrader even received an Oscar nomination. This, of course, says a lot more about the inherent conservatism of the Academy than about the job these men did. In fact, most of the greatest directors to work in American cinema (Hitchcock, Ernst Lubitsch, Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges, Orson Welles, among many others) never won a Best Director Oscar, and neither has Scorsese. And very few better, more literate scripts have been produced in America.
I'm writing here on the assumption that anyone reading this has seen this film, probably more than once. If that isn't the case, this truly is one of the greatest American films. It is a landmark film, showing the ferocity and loneliness that many find in modern life in a way that has only rarely been portrayed in any art form, whether cinema or literature. To say that it is a "must see" film doesn't do it justice.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2000
First, a phenomenal faux pas on the part of Columbia Tristar Home Video's marketing department: on the cover of my copy of this landmark movie is a quote from Liz Smith: "Jodie Foster is Delightful." If there was a more inappropriate term for anything about this movie, it is "delightful." For anyone who hasn't yet seen this modern REAL horror masterpiece, it is one of the most effective studies of frustration, isolation and suppressed (for the most part) anger in today's world that I have seen on film. And, the movie works brilliantly despite all the strikes against it; Paul Schrader's psychodrama/part pulp creation may have fallen apart, were it not for Martin Scorsese's adept direction and the gritty, committed performances of the lead characters, not in the least Robert DeNiro as the alienated, deadened ex-Marine Travis Bickle. I am always fascinated by movies that have major contrasts in tone and style within them; consider the scenes with Albert Brooks and Cybill Shepherd at Palatine Headquarters, played at a (bad) sitcom level, then contrast them with the hyper-realistic scenes of Travis's customers (Scorsese has a bravura cameo as a murderously jealous husband), Harvey Keitel's greasy pimping duties, the final massacre, and for me the most unexpected and shocking display, the aftermath of the convenience store robbery which Travis is involved in. This is the stuff of nightmares. The movie is also populated with wonderfully odd supporting characters, including Travis's fellow cabbies who have a camaraderie which feels real, and the fast-talking gun salesman who brings his arsenal to Travis's apartment for a sale. After you've viewed it a few times (if you're so inclined!), questions come to mind: Why does Betsy even give Travis the time of day, especially after their incredibly awkward "lunch" together? Why has Travis's character been written as SO clueless, sometimes distracting to the point of amusement? Doesn't Bernard Herrmann's loungy main theme, complete with emoting saxophone, seem at odds with the unadorned realism the movie is presenting us? As it is, though, these aspects, contradictions and all, are what make "Taxi Driver" a unique and unforgettable experience. There are a hundred different things worth commenting on, from the look of the film, to the ironic "message" of the movie, etc. But, for those with the mettle, this is one of the best, and should be seen for those with any interest in contemporary cinema. And, oh yes, Jodie Foster is as delightful as any pre-teen prostitute could possibly be.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2000
I feel very sorry for all the people like Leonard Maltin that can look at a film like Taxi Driver and not understand it. These people say things like "an ugly, gory decent into violence". And they're right. But they can't seem to see the difference between this movie's violence and the violence you normally find in movies.
The film is violent, but it is not about violence. It's about loneliness ("You talkin' to me? I'm the only one here"). Some people can say that Travis is a sick man (i.e. Leonard Maltin)or a psycopath (i.e. jcack)(which is completely inaccuate) and look away from the film. These people I feel sorry for because they don't dare to let the movie inhabit them and that's what it's supposed to do. What makes it one of the best films ever made is the fact that it never leaves Travis. It makes you relate to him. Every single one of us has looked in the mirror and said similar things. And we've all had some thoughts along the same lines as him (feel like a pimp that has a twelve year old girl hooking for him should be shot). We don't all act on them, and that's what makes this such a powerful film. It has us go along with Travis and we care for him (we start to say "oh no, don't take Betsy to the porno theater!"). We feel the rejection when he is dumped. We feel the fear disguised as hate and it makes us uncomfortable. And it should. It takes our thoughts to the next level as he purchases guns and we wonder, but we still relate to him. And then at the end there is a violent, graphic shootout that is brilliant because by that point we are Travis. It scares us to know what we are all capable of. Most people won't admit it and that's why the film is so brave.
As for the ending (many people think it's hard to believe Travis wouldn't be in jail), who's to say it happened or not. It could be a dream or a halucination after he has died, or it could be real. It doesn't matter. That ending is very important. It is of great significance that we see Travis at ease and then reconciling with Betsy before he looks up and is frightened by his own reflection.
As for the people who don't appreciate this film, I strongly suggest that you watch it again with an open mind. After all, you've only got one brain, it would be ashame to waste it.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2003
Director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader have concocted a perfect movie with "Taxi Driver," which follows Robert deNiro's defining role of loner cabbie Travis Bickle. The claustrophobic sets and tight cinematography, Bernard Herrmann's curiously tasty mix of polyphony and jazz in his final score, and the ever-present foley effect of an alarm clock ticking (connoting Bickle's state of mind of mental deterioration, a human time-bomb waiting to explode) all make for a highly personal character study of this self-described "God's Lonely Man."
What's more, Scorsese's triumph is getting the viewer to actually identify and sympathise with Travis, with his sense of isolation from society, with his obsession over Cybill Shepherd, his taking the young prositute, Iris (played with uncanny spunk by a young Jodie Foster) under his wing, and his unflagging mania for vengeance against "the scum, the dogs, the filth." As he pads anonymously up and down Broadway, as he drives his taxi on rainswept streets in the wee hours of the morning, and as he sits alone in his apartment, pouring peach brandy over his Wheaties, we the viewers are along on his lonely ride and journey into fear.
Is Travis the hero, the antihero or the villain of this flick? It really doesn't matter. Travis is a man compelled, his hand forced by the rot, corruption and indifferent hatred bred on the city streets. The cesspool of crime is its logical consequence, just as much as is Travis, the loner turned lone gunman. It is fitting that in his "training" scenes he is wearing cowboy boots, for he has a score to settle. Not so much with Sport (played with abrasive wit by Harvey Keitel) and the pimps, johns and druggies that people this new urban frontier of lawlessness. No, they are merely the tangible targets of his psychotic hate; The vengeance Travis metes out with his .44 Magnum is against a world that sees him as a virtual invisible man. Just as society turned their backs on the Vietnam vet, so does the woman of his dreams, Betsy (Shepherd). Initially, Travis sees her as the last glimmer of hope for the redemption of a society gone to ruin. But, when she rebuffs and deserts him over the clumsy social faux-pas of taking her to a porno movie on a first date, society loses all meaning to him, and he exacts his vengeance on society in order to transcend her rejection of him. You can tell his fate is sealed when he sees his life "pointed in one direction....there never has been any choice for me."
The setting is modern, but what makes "Taxi Driver" into an eternal classic is its dark and tragic sense-of-life. Scorsese's movies would never be so darkly hopeless after this one; Even the gruesome "Goodfellas" had a much more lighthearted touch (if you can believe it). This would also be Bernard Herrmann's last score. In fact, he died just hours after recording the last bars of the score on a Hollywood sound stage. It is a fitting swan-song for the movies' greatest composer, and a greater loss for Hollywood than they'll ever realise.
Darker than almost all films noir, think of "Death Wish" crossed with "Othello" when you think of "Taxi Driver."