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Critics reviews
Taxi Driver
Martin Scorsese United States, 1976
By transferring the harsh, obsessive psychology of Ford’s classic to an urban context, [Paul Schrader] and director Martin Scorsese simultaneously honored film history while rewriting it with their own signature. At this point, I don’t need to go through what’s classic and enduring about Taxi Driver . . . , but I’ve always found it fascinating how Schrader reversed the terms of Ford’s ending.
May 29, 2018
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Travis’ diatribes against the decadence of New York – scripted, with perfect economy, by Paul Schrader – have become justly famous, but then the alternative on offer is just as bleak: as Wizard (Peter Boyle), the nearest thing he has to a confidant, tells him, "I envy you your youth. Go on, get laid, get drunk. Do anything. You got no choice, anyway. I mean, we’re all fucked.
February 08, 2017
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In Taxi Driver (1976), playful gestures and off-the-cuff humour are frequently transmuted into violence, as if elements of the world through which Travis moves get grimly distorted simply by proximity to his seething fury and psychological unravelling, and manifested again as acts of terrible cruelty.
May 09, 2016
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This is the rare film about alienation that is nevertheless tactile, visceral. We see Travis Bickle’s world through the windows of the cab Schrader once called a “metal coffin,” but we also feel the anger, the madness welling up. As “God’s lonely man,” De Niro is quiet, observant, nervous; the inaction on his face plays off the sleazy, vibrant buzz of the streets. It’s clear all along that this kind of emotional paralysis will find an outlet somewhere.
April 20, 2016
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Schrader’s script is one thing on the page, and quite another on the screen. The lion’s share of Schrader’s dark thoughts makes it into the film intact, but around Bickle’s head, Martin Scorsese builds Bickle’s world, a dirty, frustrating, corrupt New York City, but a Scorsese city all the same, not always a Schrader city. And while Taxi Driver had been his most ambitious undertaking to date, Scorsese nevertheless brings the DNA from some of his earlier, smaller movies into the mix.
February 08, 2016
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The power of TAXI DRIVER—which profoundly influenced some of the greatest filmmakers of the modern era, like Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, Claire Denis, and Quentin Tarantino—is everflowing, the kind of movie that makes people start to care about movies yet is consistently rewarding and perplexing with each repeated viewing.
January 15, 2016
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The unceasingly hostile treatment of blacks in Taxi Driver would have made more sense had it retained the ending of Schrader’s original script, in which all the people massacred by Bickle at the brothel (including Iris’s pimp) were black. Instead, viewers are left to process the cognitive dissonance of a film that softens them up for a racially motivated bloodbath, only for the race issue to quietly seep out of the film along with the dead, black stickup kid…
September 24, 2014
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This is probably the Scorsese film I’ve seen the most times, but no matter how many times I revisit it, I keep noticing new things. Over time, what initially seemed a despairing arty-intellectual vigilante picture acquires tragic weight. Travis’ worldview is conveyed in adolescent neo-noir terms, with Bernard Herrmann’s score conveying the cornball Raymond Chandler aspects of Travis’ mentality as well as undercurrents of depression, insecurity and motiveless rage.
December 03, 2011
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It reveals itself to be not a masterpiece, but a film that plays as if it were made on a drug comedown. It has that obsessive, faded, disconnected tone, and the correlated occasional flashes of brilliance… The film seems not made in collaboration, but in a circle jerk. The bloodshed at the end is the payoff for three separate talents indulging in parallel fantasies, each at a different pace.
March 25, 2011
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Hitchcockian unease permeates the film, but so too does a Godardian use of space and a Bressonian focus on obsession heighten the mounting sense of dread. These elements are groovy for film buffs but are mere icing on the proverbial cake; you don’t need to be in the know to relish Scorsese’s mastery of the form, and what may astonish even more than the creative prowess is how compulsively entertaining the results are.
March 17, 2011
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Scorsese didn’t direct Taxi Driver so much as orchestrate its elements. Lasting nearly 20 minutes and fueled by Bernard Herrmann’s rhapsodic score, the de facto overture is a densely edited salmagundi of effects—slow motion, fragmenting close-ups, voluptuous camera moves, and trick camera placement—that may be the showiest pure filmmaking in any Hollywood movie since Touch of Evil.
March 16, 2011
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The final messy shoot-out is gloriously, horrifyingly gory, and hasn’t been scrubbed to death to save our stomachs (or worsen them). It still combines a kind of grindhouse blood (so red … but in some cases, a repulsive brownish red), among the cheap plaid suits and Iris’s hot pants, and remains so recklessly real and beautifully composed all at once.
January 01, 2011
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What makes the film so alluring and powerful is that there’s a little bit of Bickle in everyone, at least in the sense that loneliness is part of the human condition, especially in a city that’s indifferent by nature to the millions that inhabit it… Scorsese’s seductive, dreamlike imagery and Schrader’s voiceover narration draw the audience into Bickle’s head and reveal the world through his eyes, which see only ugliness and filth.
August 22, 2007
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It shatters the sheen of outsider chic that drove films like Five Easy Pieces, Two-Lane Blacktop, and Easy Rider by presenting an alienated “hero” whose secret life is the poisoned well of the mainstream, a manifestation of the sickest elements of the time… Taxi Driver represents a vital intellectual and emotional severing point. Out of the volcano of this film formed the cool, ironic crystals of indie cinema, with its rejection of emotional conflation.
March 27, 2007
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Our shot is subtly audacious—a contradiction in terms befitting a film so dependent upon the concept of contradiction itself. At every turn Taxi Driver seems to ask us to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable, to square the appeal of DeNiro’s undeniable charisma with the actions of a sociopath.
July 17, 2006
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The film’s allusions are a compound of contributions from Schrader, Scorsese and Herrmann of varying depth and meaning. Scorsese allows the works of others, through borrowings, to make an impress upon his film. Yet he re-arranges these borrowings to simultaneously put his own stamp on them, and by extension their sources. In this way, Taxi Driver becomes the centre of a complex web of interrelationships.
October 20, 2005
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What can be newly said about this savage, many-headed dragon of the American new wave, a luridly realistic movie about a quiet New York psychopath that became one of the most revered movies of the entire pre-Skywalker century? You either love it or you love it; in any case, Martin Scorsese’s history-making scald is truly a phenomenon from another day and age. Which is to say, imagine a like-minded film of this decade killing at the box office and getting nommed for Best Picture.
January 04, 2005
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This is the type of film perhaps Robert Altman or Stanley Kubrick would have made. But Scorsese rarely wants this kind of distance from his characters, and his films contain a dynamism few others achieve because of this.
May 21, 2002
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Perhaps the most formally ravishing — as well as the most morally and ideologically problematic — film ever directed by Martin Scorsese, the 1976 Taxi Driver remains a disturbing landmark for the kind of voluptuous doublethink it helped ratify and extend in American movies. Of all Scorsese’s movies, Taxi Driver is for me the most seductive, though I wouldn’t call it either his best film (I’d choose the underrated The King of Comedy) or his most gut-wrenching (I’d pick the overrated Raging Bull).
March 01, 1996
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It has a lot of negative aspects, but it would be silly to shrug off its baroque visuals and its high-class actor, Robert De Niro, whose acting range is always underscored by a personal dignity. He’s very good at wild manic scenes and better at poignant introversion: a man watching TV in a trance and eating while not looking at his food, or giving the sense of tense repression. Every scene combines the frantic and the still, almost simultaneously.
May 01, 1976
There is much to like in Taxi Driver if one doesn’t mind the disorder in the narrative. I didn’t mind the sordidness, the violence, or the mock-ironic ending. What I did mind about the film was its life-denying spirit, its complete lack of curiosity about the possibilities of people. Between Scorsese’s celebrated Catholic guilt and Schrader’s celebrated Protestant guilt, even a Checker cab would groan under such a burden of self-hatred.
February 16, 1976