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TAXI DRIVER

Director: MARTIN SCORSESE

U.S.A. • 1976 • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 114 MIN


FROM THE VERY START, WITH BERNARD HERRMANN’S CRASHING CHORDS ACCOMPANYING THE SHOT OF A YELLOW CAB EMERGING FROM A SULPHUROUS STEAM CLOUD IN A NEON-DRENCHED NIGHT-TIME NEW YORK, RIGHT UP TO THE HALLUCINATORY OUT-OF-BODY GOD’S-EYE VIEW OF THE CLIMACTIC CARNAGE TOWARDS THE FILM’S END, TAXI DRIVER—REVIVED HERE FOR ITS 30TH ANNIVERSARY IN AN IMMACULATE NEW PRINT—GRIPS LIKE A VICE.
Inspired by writer Paul Schrader’s own feelings of loneliness and despair in the early ’70s, the film centres on Travis Bickle, an insomniac Vietnam veteran working nights despite his growing disgust at the ‘garbage and trash’ he sees walking the city sidewalks. Nursing various resentments, probably fuelled by a fear of social and sexual failure, Bickle suddenly finds himself obsessively drawn to Betsy, a campaign worker for a presidential candidate; after a first date goes badly, his attention turns to Iris, a fourteen-year-old prostitute he makes it his mission to save. . . .
Its expressionist images eloquently mirroring Bickle’s sense of the impoverished, tawdry, sometimes menacing New York of the mid-70s as a hell-on-earth, Martin Scorsese’s Cannes Palme d’or-winner remains one of the defining American movies of that decade, not only for its cinephile bravura flair but also for the way it points to the troubled urban mood of those times by locating Bickle’s psychotic rage in his all-concealed racism, misogyny and anxieties concerning all-round impotence. A vividly detailed study in urban paranoia, De Niro’s devastating performance, like the film itself, cries out to be seen on the big screen.—Geoff Andrew.

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