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Taxi Driver (revisited)

It’s always interesting to revisit a seminal movie and see whether it has stood the test of time. Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1975) is regarded as a classic but 40 years on I am not so sure. The story is of a psychologically-damaged Vietnam vet Travers Bickle (Robert de Niro) who, suffering from insomnia, decides to become a night-time taxi driver and through his eyes, or rather windscreen, you see the low life of New York. The twin themes of low life and damaged Vietnam vet are scarcely new, as Jon Voight had already starred in two fine movies Midnight Cowboy and Coming Home.  Taxi Driver did much to launch the career of Robert de  Niro, the ultimate method actor, who actually did drive a taxi and his performance is of great intensity. Jodie Foster stars as Iris, the 12 year old prostitute, and the excellent Cybill Shepherd as Betsy, the cold staffer of a political candidate, for whom Travers falls. Harvey Keitel, as the pimp Sport, also delivers a convincing performance.

To support my argument that this is a traditional film, not ground breaking, I pray in aid the brilliant music score of Bernard  Herrmann, a veteran composer that Welles had engaged for Citizen Kane and Hitchcock used in Psycho, Vertigo and Marnie.  He composes one lilting plaintive melody, played out by a  sleazy saxophone, that defines the film brilliantly.

The ‘n’ word is used to describe a black and it’s doubtful whether a 12 year old prostitute would now feature: both dated the film as much as the big spectacles of that era.

It’s worth seeing, but does not date as well as other films in a golden age of film making like The Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest , Annie Hall and The Last Picture Show.


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About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts