Movie Analysis Essay on Taxi Driver

Paper Type:  Movie review
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1908 Words
Date:  2023-02-01


Taxi Driver (1976) is a classic and neo-noir psychological movie examining the alienation in the urban society written by Paul Schrader and directed by Martin Scorsese. Taxi Driver is set in a morally deteriorated and decaying New York City following the events of the Vietnam War. Within the setting of this film, Martin Scorsese combines elements of the Western, urban melodrama film genre, and film noir. In the development of the film, it explores the psychological insanity within an inarticulate, twisted, lonely, war veteran and a Taxi Driver (De Niro), who mistakenly lashes out with power and frustrated anger towards the world as he feels alienated by the world in different ways. De Niro's obsessiveness is first paired with the urge to connect with a blonde office worker (Shepherd), and later with the attempt to liberate a 12-year old hooker termed Iris (Foster) from her street life. Even though Taxi Driver deals with obsession and loneliness, and follows a single character whose characteristics are the verge of the spectrum, the events of the film can be still relatable as one. For instance, the emotions making up Travis (protagonist) are amongst the emotions and occurrences that viewers of the movies have to deal with. Taxi Driver has attained acknowledgment as consciously influenced by different occurrences surrounding the formulation of the film. For example, there are aspects of the portrayal of New York, femme fatale, and other elements refolding around the consideration of the film as a noir, or Western.

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Regularly, Taxi Driver is cited as one of the all-time most excellent films by the film directors, audiences, and the critics as well. The film was for four times nominated for Academy Awards including awards for best actor, best picture (De Niro) and best supporting actress (Foster). At the 1976 Cannes Movie Festival, Taxi Driver won the Palme d'Or. As one of the most successful films directed by Martin Scorsese, Taxi Driver has gathered different interpretations majorly from the critics. Mainly, most of the critics argue and focus on alienation, violence, miscommunication, and cultural appropriation while clinging to two contradictory positions (Rausch, 2010). First, they argue that Bickle suffers from a pathological mental condition and secondly, that Bickle is average and the final product of mismanaged and devastating post-modern society setup (Fuchs, 2005). However, with the use of the trauma theory, there is a possibility that the two contradicting positions can be reconciled as an interplay of internal frailty and external stimuli. Hence, this seeks the resituating of the film as a vet movie similar to other veteran films in the 1960s and 1970s depicting soldiered as victims and victimizers.

In numerous ways, Taxi Driver is linked to different occurrences as it mirrors violence in different ways. It has delivered a distinct influence to other filmmakers such as David Fincher in the (1995 Se7en) movie. Undeniably, the film provides a unique view on the confluence of the Western and film noir. According to the 20th-century literature, the typical Western stories are told of a hero whose violent and valiant actions rescue endangered societies as they have a dark side. During the 1970s, mayhem in the American literature was on the rise evident in the Taxi Driver. In the film, the hero attempts to lash out against violence. However, in different contexts of the movie, it is considerably complicated than typical urban Western American screenplays. Arguably, Taxi Driver indulges in specific deconstructive refutation of regeneration through the events of violence by merging the Western elements with film noir. Through character development, it formulates a significant development revolving Taxi Driver as its development illuminates' ways through which the film enacts the claims on Western development and film noir.

Brief Taxi Driver Plot Summary

Taxi Driver begins impressionistically with a scene of an urban jungle reflecting New York City. Travis Bickle, a lonely 26-year-old discharged from the United States marine and the Vietnam War living in New York City, is seen entering into a professional office owned by a taxi company. Travis Bickle applies as a drive in the cab company to derive the taxi during the night shift as an escape for his insomniac behaviors. Frequently, Travis visits the porn theaters on the 42nd street and offers to work Jewish holidays riding into the sleaziest locations within the city. Within the film, there are different developments portrayed mainly in the cab business as Travis handles his business. For instance, we see Travis writing his diary concerning the monotonous routine; however, he encounters different experiences with every client. Travis feels tormented and faceless is New York City since he is de-socialized and unconnected from conventional patterns defining reality.

Just like any man, Travis becomes attracted to a blonde lady dressed in white around the Manhattan street, heading to the campaign headquarters of Charles Palatine, a presidential candidate, where she works as a volunteer. After various attempts, Travis enters into the campaign office to volunteer to take Betsy, the campaign volunteer for coffee which Betsy later agrees. Later on, Travis naively takes Betsy to see a pornographic movie which then pisses her off, and she leaves. Tom, her fellow worker, kicks Travis out as he attempts to reconcile with Betsy by sending her flowers as well as scolding her at the campaign center. Moreover, such events on the routine world of taxi driving bring the related interaction between sex and violence altogether. As the film develops, Travis feels offended by the prostitution and dysfunction throughout the City. The incident is evident when a young prostitute, Iris enters Travis taxi in attempt to escape from her pimp, Sport, who drags Iris out of the cab and gives Travis a $20 bill. Different from the occurrences of sex and violence, the incident reminds Travis of the corruption surrounding him in the City.

Similarly, an event happens when a passenger gloats to Travis concerning his intentions to kill his wife and her lover as well. On the other hand, as Travis attempts to confide in a fellow cab driver concerning his thoughts which turn violent. However, the fellow cab driver, Wizard, assures Travis that everything would function well, abandoning Travis on his destructive practices and actions. In another scene development, Travis is seen enrolling in an intense training program, in an attempt to find a relieve for the frustrations in the City. Under the different circumstance, Travis purchases handguns (a .44 Magnum Smith and Wesson Model 29) and is seen practicing drawing the weapon as well as modifying one to help him hide and quickly retrieve it in case he needs it. Also, he starts attending Palantine's campaign rallies, hoping to breach the security and assassinate him. In one instance, Travis assesses a store moments before a robbery attempt occurs and shots the robber. However, the store owner takes responsibility for Travis's actions and claims Travis's weapon as his own.

On the other hand, Travis is seen seeking out Iris from the pimp, Sport, asking her to abandon prostitution to return home to her family. In this scene, Travis cuts his hair into a Mohawk to signify the change and need to maintain justice within the City as he plans to assassinate Palantine. Later on, there are incidents of a shootout in the East Village as Travis kills several individuals an occurrence that leaves Iris afraid and pleads with Travis not to kill any other person but instead, kills the brothels guard in front of Iris. After the police arrive at the location, Travis mimes shooting himself with his fingers, and the shootout is seen as an attempt to rescue Iris from armed individuals. In what could be viewed as noir, Travis is not prosecuted as the press refers to him as a local hero to an extent, he receives a recognition letter from Iris' father for saving his daughter. After his recovery, he resumes his job as a Taxi Driver, and in one incident, he encounters with Betsy as a fare and asks to be driven home. Upon their arrival, Travis refuses payment from Betsy and leaves with a smile. However, as Travis drives off, he suddenly becomes agitated after viewing something into his rear-view mirror.

Taxi Driver as a Film Noir

Film noir is a genre or style primarily used to describe cinematographic film marked by sexual motivations, cynical attitudes, and other moods of menace, fatalism, and pessimism. Initially, the term was applied to American thriller films produces with the 1940s into the 1950s. Film noir is characterized by common elements such as the fatalism, dirty realism, and other unsavory aspects manifesting themselves in human society. Also, it is characterized by elements of sexual perversity, corruption, and criminal activity evident in the film Taxi Driver. With film noir, it encompasses neo-noir which is a post-modern appropriation of the style and elements in the actual noir film as most neo-noir films are psychological thrillers while film noir is a French description for "black film." According to many cinema critics, they argue that Taxi Driver depicts elements as more of a neo-noir film than a noir (Recchia, 1996). In other numerous cases, film noir is considered as the product of postwar realism and disillusionment, combined with a disorienting setting that produces moral disorientation as if pushing the American system towards the destruction of the revolution. Frequently, such noir films offer the use of disjunctions between the sounds and movement to create augment suspense and disorientation that purport alienation and insanity. As neo-noir films depict, Taxi Driver, derives an anti-hero through a psychological build up as it explores the questions and ideas raised by having radical actors depicted as an anti-hero in a corrupt society. In different instances, film noir has evolved with the changing times are films developed in the 70s drawing back to noir practiced in the 40s and 50s. Taxi Driver has been used frequently as a basis for various legal cases since it depicts struggles and particular instances of assassination that various individuals have attempted to imitate. As a result, the film gains a successful classification as a neo-noir film.

Taxi Driver contains various elements of noir in both traditional and neo-classical context. However, there are various contexts of the film noir depicted as Scorsese pushes each element to outmost limits. For instance, the lighting in the film obfuscates to the extent of surrealism as the characters in the film are bathed in a red glow of neon light and lost in the dark shadows in the darkness and night. Additionally, there is the presence of a voice-over that wavers between the narrative and insanity connected to the film.

The Beginning

As the Taxi Driver begins, it could be mistaken for a horror movie due to the presence of horror iconography in the introducing scene. For example, Scorsese conveys a sense of distortion, disfiguring the protagonist's sensibility, which creates a pattern that implies a psychotic's subjective perspective. Due to Scorsese's virtuoso, he creates virtuoso effects that undermine the sense of reality, which, on the other hand, shows the unsettling distortion of things. Through this effect, it creates an anxious tone through the "ken-tone" process as we can see the New York streets in blurry colors. The occurrence creates a luminescent world while at the same time, creating overwhelming darkness, which is a perfect depiction of how Travis Bickle perceives the world. As a result, this confirms the development and view of Taxi Driver as a film noir. Even though there is the view of light, the protagonist opts to focus on...

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