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Entries in Taxi Driver (7)

Wednesday
Apr152015

Best Shot: "Taxi Driver" Visual Index

For this week's edition of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" our series in which we invite everyone to watch the same movie and pick their best image -- "best" being in the eye of the beholder -- we flag down Martin Scorsese and he drives us right into the squalor of 70s era New York and further still into the head space of one Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro). Though Scorsese had already broken through as an important auteur, this controversial classic was the first of his eventual eight "Best Picture" nominees. It was only the third Director of Photography job ever for Michael Chapman and though Chapman didn't become Scorsese regular cinematographer, he did reunite with the director for another classic (Raging Bull)

Best Shots from Taxi Driver (1976)
14 shots chosen by 15 participating blogs
Click on the image for the corresponding article 

New York as the very embodiment of hell on earth...
- The Spy in the Sandwich

The protagonist as silent predator...
-Antagony & Ecstasy 


The movie is basically made up of perfect frames, over 150,000 of them...
-Nebel Without a Cause 

It’s voyeurism, and he’s the audience...
-Coco Hits NY

Is Taxi Driver suggesting that evil is contagious... as it transfers it directly from the auteur to his muse?
- The Film Experience 


Simple gestures can function as shorthand for multiple meanings...
-Manuel Muñoz 

As if his fate is already predetermined...
-A Fistful of Films

One of the things that I've always admired about this film is the omnipresence of the political campaign in the background..."
-The Entertainment Junkie 


'You do a thing... that's who you are..."
-Sorta That Guy 

 I saw it within him because I recognized it within myself..."
-The Film's The Thing 

Never more unsettling than when he stands in a crowd clapping and smiling...
-Zitzelfilm 

Robert De Niro, I will always love you."
-Paul Outlaw

Above all, it's a fascinating character study of its titular vigilante
-Film Actually 


 'like an angel' by Travis Bickle's own account."
-Queerer Things 

 

The looking and the longing..."
-Dusty Hixenbaugh 

 

THE END. And can we talk about the end? I have... feelings.

Next Week on Best Shot:
The classic comedy Nine to Five (1980). Have you ever considered how it looks? We're watching it because we're too excited for Lily Tomlin & Jane Fonda's new series Grace & Frankie to hit Netflix next month.

Wednesday
Apr152015

Taxi Driver is *about* the movies

Taxi Driver is about the movies. That's my thesis at least. Oh sure it's about a few other things, too. But consider this: as early as the very first shot of Travis Bickle's yellow cab on duty, it drives right across a movie theater marquee (showing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) via our low angle view. 

Cinematography by Michael Chapman

Massacre? An overstatement of foreshadowing perhaps but we will get to the killings in two hours. On the other hand, since we're in Travis Bickle's headspace even more than we're in the cab, you could argue that the massacres start much much earlier. In one of Taxi Driver's most famous images, Travis, alone in a theater trains his finger pistol on porn actors on the screen and begins to fire away. It's a frighteningly short jump from finger guns to actual guns and we watch him training them on random civilians in the street from a window as well as on actors on the television set.

But what prompts the descent into violent fantasy/reality?

I'd argue that the key to understanding Taxi Driver, this reading at least, is Martin Scorsese's racist, misogynist, and altogether terrifying presence in the backseat. About halfway through the movie Scorsese's unnamed fare directs Travis to sit with the meter running outside a building and the camera drifts up, on Scorsese's orders, to frame, quite literally, the target of the director's violence in a window, his supposed wife in silhouette. The director is directing and storytelling within his own directed story.

"I got some bad ideas in my head"The fare shares his violent fantasy of murdering the woman and her lover. From that moment on, Travis himself is caught up in his own violent fantasies. Is Taxi Driver suggesting that violence or evil is contagious and transferring it directly from the auteur to his muse? Or is Scorsese's fare the driver's own fantasy, a convenient projection in the rearview mirror. Many movie fans take the events of Taxi Driver literally, but I'm not so sure it's happening as we see it. Just as Travis sees it. Consider the epilogue in which he is regarded as a hero and even the girl who rejected him reevaluates. The last thing we see in the movie appears to be Travis looking at himself in the rear view mirror in a collision of quick cuts, jittery camera, and reflected street lights.

At one point in that disturbing director/muse fare/driver scene, the camera drifts from Scorsese's shadowed face to Travis's. As it lingers on Travis's face we're hearing Scorsese's voice "You think I'm sick don't you." In the very next scene Travis expresses concern to a fellow driver that he has bad thoughts in his head. Was this one of them -- Travis in conversation with himself?

best shot

Like Patrick Bateman decades later, maybe Travis 'doesn't exist' or doesn't want to. His co-worker tells him, "You become the thing you do." And the movie seems to agree.

Travis reduces his humanity throughout Taxi Driver, even physically, as he slims down to better hide how many weapons he's now carrying. Soon he is only violent fantasy. And then violent reality. This, my choice, for best shot tells us as much. Travis, whatever he was, is less and less that. Travis is a weapon. In a viewfinder. Scorsese is framing him for us but Travis Bickle is always staring right back in one of the most unsettling films of the 70s. 

 

TONIGHT AT 11 - THE FULL BEST SHOT INDEX 

Saturday
May102014

Team Top Ten: The Best Cannes Winners of All Time

Amir here, to bring you this month’s edition of Team Top Ten, a monthly poll by all of our contributing team at The Film Experience. Cinephiles all around the world turn their attention to the south of France in May as the most prestigious film festival in the world gets underway in Cannes.

The festival’s history is a rich one, full of interesting cinematic and political narratives. It’s an event that has celebrated the best in cinema and operated as a launching pad for emerging artists as much as it has played games of politics and festival world favouritism. Still, when all is said and done, the list of Palme d’Or winners can rival any list of the best films ever made.

With this year’s edition of the festival just about to begin, we thought it would be a good time to revisit the past and choose our Top Ten Favourite Cannes Winners of All Time. For this poll, we’ve excluded the first two editions of the festival (1939, retroactively awarded to Union Pacific, and 1946, when the top prize was shared between 11 films.)

There is really no easy way to select the cream of the crop here, because these films are already... well, the cream of the crop. Consider the eight films that finished behind our top dozen: Pulp Fiction; Dancer in the Dark; Viridiana; 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days; Farewell My Concubine; Secrets & Lies; The Tree of Life; The Pianist. Not to mention masterpieces like Black Orpheus, Wages of Fear and Rosetta that placed outside the top 20. The point is that this is the highest echelon of films awards so the standards are high and margins are slim. Some of you will surely disagree with our ranking, but we welcome that. Let us know what you think in the comments.

THE BEST CANNES WINNERS OF ALL TIME
a non-definitive poll which begins with a three-way tie for tenth

10= La Dolce Vita (Fellini, 1960)

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Feb162014

Podcast: Our Favorite Films by This Year's "Best Directors"

It's a special edition of the Podcast. And by special I don't mean "filled with sound problems for which I apologize" but that we're not staying in the now but looking back. Joe and Nick join Nathaniel to discuss this year's Best Director Nominees... but not for their new films. We each choose our favorite film by the five artists nominated.

We throw in a few Oscar party food tips as well...

00:00 Oscar Fatigue and Scheduling
02:30 The Films of Steve McQueen
07:45 The Films of Alexander Payne 
16:00 The Films of Alfonso Cuarón 
20:25 The Films of David O. Russell
28:30 The Films of Martin Scorsese 
39:30 Tangent: The Departed and Modern Day Scorsese
43:00 Oscar Parties - Do We Go? Do We Have Them?
47:00 Choosing Oscar Party Food Items

You can listen to the podcast right here at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments! Hunger, Shame, I Heart Huckabees, Taxi Driver, King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Children of Men, Y Tu Mama Tambíen, 

Director Filmographies

Saturday
Mar312012

Someday My Link Will Come...

The Playlist P.T. Anderson's The Master is coming on October 12th. Five long years for a new PT.
Gawker Rich Juzwiak on the reign of PG-13 "safe, sanitized, and worth shitloads of money"
Cinema Blend "the envy of lady bookworms everywhere"... Mia Wasikowska moves from Jane Eyre to Madame Bovary.
Empire has an hour long interview w/  General Zod himself Terence Stamp.
La Daily Musto "Newsies is the new Annie" love that headline for this review of the film turned stage musical.

Movie|Line apparently Leonardo DiCaprio was just too busy to attend the Titanic 3D premiere. James, Kate and Billy made the time.
WOW Dakota Fanning in Wonderland magazine. She's looking a bit Carol Kane, yes?
Thought Killer an imagined conversation between four girl icons: Buffy, Bella, Hermione and Katniss from Hunger Games
The Capitol Interesting piece on Jennifer Lawrence and the career she might have if she plays her hand well.

Her presence is palpably earthy and unfussy, reminiscent of Ingrid Bergman, another natural beauty who seemed uninterested in playing up her looks.

 

Flavorwire on the music used in Hunger Games (strangely much of the score is not on the soundtrack album 
Zephyr A must for horror fans: what horror icons from the past might look like today. 
Old Hollywood awesome storyboards from Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.

Finally...
NPR Snow White is having a moment. Why now?

... and I suppose this as as good a time as any to announced that I'm taking Jorge's suggestion. We'll do Snow White and the Seven Dwarves for the April 11th Hit Me With Your Best Shot.  If you join in your prince will come. Someday. Promise.