Friday Night Freak Show Forecast – Taxi Driver By Andy Turner

POSTED:: June 14, 2019


This month’s Friday Night Freak Show selection is “primarily a quieter movie,” concludes its parents’ guide on the Internet Movie Database.

If you only know Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver by reputation, or even if you have seen the movie, this description might seem surprising, but it’s accurate – I mean despite all the sleaze, gore and dirty word stuff. Indeed, we spend a lot of time in the head of one Travis Bickle, masterfully portrayed by Robert DeNiro: a Vietnam vet, New York City taxi driver and “God’s Lonely Man.” The entire movie is told from Bickle’s perspective as his loneliness pushes him to increasingly dismal thoughts and actions.

But you probably know all of this. Though released the week before Valentine’s Day in 1976, Taxi Driver continues to be massively influential and is regularly referenced in pop culture and current events.

Just this week, as I was researching the movie for the Forecast, I twice encountered Taxi Driver without really trying. Travis Bickle was depicted in all his alienation on the wall of Reese Witherspoon’s teenager daughter’s bedroom on the Season 2 premiere of HBO’s Big Little Lies. And then host Josh Olson lightly chided guest Leonard Maltin on The Movies That Made Me podcast for his long-ago, often derided, two-star rating for Taxi Driver, which he called “ugly and unredeeming.”

Let’s hope you find something redeeming about the few Forecast tidbits below:

Worth checking out is the Sight and Sound reader for Taxi Driver, which includes the script and an 1982 interview by screenwriter Paul Schrader of Scorsese, who tells him that when he first read the script he almost felt like he had written it himself: “Therefore there’s something deeper than just paper between you and me. There’s a man like that taxi driver, a man who is a f*****g vehicle on screen.”

The 40th anniversary Blu-ray edition of Taxi Driver is exceptional and offers a motherlode of special features. In addition to several feature-length commentaries, there are numerous fascinating featurettes, including one that looks at the theme of loneliness in the movie with significant insight from Schrader about the writing of the script and another with NYC taxi drivers from the 1970s that is delightful. There is also a 70-minute documentary that features Schrader, Scorsese and all the major actors in the film and includes a wonderful segment that looks at the makeup effects in the movie. A stand-alone interview with Scorsese reveals how determined he was to make the movie and how hard it was to make it a reality. At one point, he was so desperate he considered shooting the movie on video in black and white.

Find an excellent oral history of the movie in the Hollywood Reporter.

Finally, despite DeNiro’s wishes, Taxi Driver 2 still remains unlikely.

Taxi Driver is part of WMSE’s Friday Night Freak Show series on Friday, April 9, at the Times Cinema, 5906 W. Vliet Street, Milwaukee. A WMSE Alternating Currents  DJs Rob and Zorro spin at 8 p.m., and the movie starts at 9.


POSTED BY:: Sidney McCain