Taxi Driver (1976)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenwriter: Paul Schrader
Stars: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel
You heard the line before you first saw the film: "You talkin' to me?" In Martin Scorsese's dirty '70s masterpiece, Taxi Driver, it's the next line that's most important: " 'Cause there's no one else here."
How strange that a film so dominated by one POV—a racist, sexist, and just generally disturbed one, at that—has come to be the ultimate expression of New York City, a place made up of millions of perspectives. And yet so many of us are drawn to Travis Bickle, the cabbie who only wants to clean himself up, maybe make a friend. And if that doesn't work out, he'll settle for cleaning up his city.
That's the summary minus the psychosis, but the awesome power of Taxi Driver lies in that psychosis. By watching, you commit to two hours in Bickle's headspace. There is no exit from the dripping neon seediness of Times Square porno theaters, and pimps posted up outside of East Village walk-ups.
Indeed, the American imagination can't escape Taxi Driver, even 36 years after the film's release. When you hear someone who's lived in the city for just a month complain about Giuliani and Bloomberg's efforts to turn Manhattan into Disneyland, they're remembering Taxi Driver, a New York they experienced through the movies. New York is as much a film as it is a real place. —RS