Taxi Driver (1976) (R)

There's an uneasy dread that I experience when I watch "Taxi Driver" that's rarely present with such intensity for any other movie. The beautiful jazz that softly croons in the background is enough to make me almost weep, yet if I weep, it's for a different reason. "Taxi Driver" is Martin Scorsese's most intimate work, his most calculated piece, and probably his most disturbing.
Centering around a man with a damaged mind, "Taxi Driver" sees the life of Travis Bickle as he navigates through mental obstacles. A recluse and insomniac, Travis is completely unaware of social norms. He is a bigot, a racist, and a lonesome sole. He is insane.
When the movie opens, Travis is applying to be a taxi driver for long night hours. He gets the job and we see him driving around New York City. His routine rarely diverts: he will laze around his house, go to a X-rated movie theater, and simply drive for the sake of driving.
Disconnected from all that's around him, Travis' only companions are fellow taxi drivers and they could never be called true friends.
Trying to engage with people more, Travis notices a beautiful woman walking the streets. Her name is Betsy and she is running a campaign center for a potential presidential candidate.
Travis asks her out and she accepts.
What ensues is entirely nasty, but nasty that's beyond definition.
The movie's plot meanders lethargically, indeed the movie can seem like it's dragging. But every scene is vitally important to Travis Bickle's development.
Take one scene for instance: a man (ironically played by Scorsese himself) talks to Travis in his cab. They sit and stare at a woman's silhouette in the window. The man asks Travis if he knows who that woman is. That woman is the man's wife, but this isn't his apartment. Catching his wife cheating on him is unacceptable...he plans to shoot the woman in the face. He then goes on the describe the damage a gun can do to various parts of a woman's body. Travis just sits and he scared? disgusted? excited? all three?
"Taxi Driver" doesn't have answers and ends curiously opposite from what the rest of the movie feels like. In the way that David Fincher achieves the feeling in "Se7en", Scorsese's film is entirely and completely stifling. It's demanding, hypnotic, and perhaps frustrating.
Yet the film is great...and for what reason?
It makes us think, it makes us sympathize, and it makes us hate.
I don't think any movie besides this one has evoked such strong emotions within me that I didn't know what to do with. I got angry, I got sad, I got confused...why?
We travel with Travis as he journeys towards a dark and looming place in his mind. He is better than all the rest of the "scum"...he is a prophet and a pusher. We simply watch him digress which is taxing on the viewer in more than one way.
A movie like this, as unapologetic and brash as it is, rarely receives the recognition that "Taxi Driver" did. The film won the Palme d'Or and was nominated for four Oscars, winning none, losing to "Rocky".
Yet as highly as the movie is revered, it still is completely captivating with its's a surprisingly personal picture.
Gorgeous with every shot, haunting with every line, and twisted from the first shot; "Taxi Drive" is an unflinching, unrivaled masterpiece.
A movie that hurts to watch, but demands to be seen.

Score: ★★★★

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