Combustible Celluloid
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With: Robert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Boyle, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, Leonard Harris, Albert Brooks, Martin Scorsese
Written by: Paul Schrader
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 113
Date: 07/02/1976

Taxi Driver (1976)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Talkin' to Me

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver is acclaimed for its gritty realism, but it has an equal amount of cinematic reverie; screenwriter Paul Schrader contributed just as much to the film's Dostoyevskian vision. Its famous "overhead" murder shot and the steam rising from the sewer grates add up to a unique visual poetry.

Robert De Niro stars as Travis Bickle, a war veteran (though the war is hardly mentioned) who lands a job as a nighttime New York City cab driver. Despite his disturbing issues with women and a self-righteous streak, De Niro makes Travis one of the most compelling characters in cinema history. He attempts to woo a high-class campaign worker, Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), at the headquarters for Senator Palantine (Leonard Harris). When that fails he channels his energy into rescuing a teenage hooker (Jodie Foster) and becomes obsessed with the Senator.

Scorsese populates the rest of the cast with memorable characters: Albert Brooks as an emasculated colleague of Betsy's, Peter Boyle as another, cheerier cabbie, and Harvey Keitel as a smooth-talking pimp. Aside from De Niro, however, it's Foster who comes across as the most frighteningly memorable, with her pint-sized intelligence and ferocity. Scorsese himself of course appears as a psychotic passenger.

The great Bernard Herrmann provided the seedy jazz score -- the first time in years that a director did not ask him to copy his work with Hitchcock. Michael Chapman was the DP.

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