Fathoms Events and Sony Pictures presents a chance to see one of the greatest and craziest films of all time, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver in U.S. theaters again this week. Celebrating the film’s 40th anniversary, Taxi Driver drives back to cinemas for only one more day, Wednesday, October 19th. I got a chance to go to a showing on Sunday in New York City. I’d argue the real star of the film is New York City itself. The city pulses throughout; the filth and degradation of the 1970s feels hundreds of years removed, not a mere 40.
Taxi Driver features the definition of “all-star cast,” headlined by Oscar-winner Robert De Niro as the film’s notorious anti-hero Travis Bickle. Joining him are future two-time Oscar-winner Jodie Foster, who was 14 when the movie debuted in 1976. Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks, Peter Boyle, and Harvey Keitel round out the cast. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor (De Niro), Supporting Actress (Foster), and Score (the amazing Bernard Herrmann).
Before the screening on Sunday, we were shown footage from this year’s TriBeCa Film Festival where the cast and crew reunited for a 40th anniversary celebration and screening. Of course, De Niro opened the filmed introduction by joking about having to hear “You talking to me?” every day for “40 f*ckin’ years.” Writer Paul Schrader talked about how the film was semi-autobiographical, which is scary on multiple levels. The best parts were De Niro and Keitel discussing how they got into character by driving cabs and working with actual pimps. De Niro said he was recognized once, but the person assumed the Oscar winner was simply out of work!
The film itself is a dark and depressing look into post-Vietnam War America. Travis Bickle is a veteran, today the scars of PTSD are clearly present. He is dissociative and enjoys his long shifts roaming NYC at night. He tries living in somewhat normalcy. He meets and bravely asks out a beautiful woman from a Senator’s presidential campaign headquarters. His date with Betsy (Shepherd) starts promising, but ends quickly after taking her a dirty movie; he struggles to understand what he did wrong. Travis sees Betsy as the shining light in a world of darkness and filth. But after this rejection he spirals out of control. Soon he is arming himself, and plotting assassinations. John Hinckley, the attempted assassin of President Ronald Reagan in 1980, attributed De Niro’s performance as an inspiration; as was his obsession with actress Jodie Foster.
The film concludes with a spectacularly violent conclusion, where Bickle “rescues” Iris (Foster), a young prostitute, from her pimp (Keitel). The film ends with two contrasting viewpoints. We the audience know Bickle is insane, we’ve watched meticulously his downslide into madness and paranoia. Yet the world of the film views him as a hero, saving a young girl from an evil men. He continues on his daily path, another, possibly more violent madness yet to come.
Taxi Driver is an historically relevant and important film. It helped launch the career of director Martin Scorsese, arguably one of the best filmmakers of the last half century. In today’s political climate, the film somehow feels relevant, which is very disturbing to say the least. The film is honored by the American Film Institute, ranking 52 on their 100 years 100 movies list, and the iconic line “You talkin to me?” ranks 10th all time.
You can catch this classic in U.S. theaters one more day only, Wednesday, October 19th at 2:00pm and 7:00pm. You can get your tickets to Taxi Driver online at www.FathomEvents.com, and search the theaters listings for your area. The 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray will be released on November 8, 2016.
[Image Credit: Sony Pictures. Courtesy of Fathom Events. Used with permission.]