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What does it mean to you?....Number 1: Taxi Driver 
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Post What does it mean to you?....Number 1: Taxi Driver
Last year I rewatched this film for the first time since my early 20s and it was interesting to watch it through different eyes and in a different context. A lot changed for me between the ages of 21 and 29.

I found a woman who doesn't (always) hate me. Got married to her. Pro-created. Acquired what the system apparently considers an education And a job we might blindly refer to as "respectable". These also brought some emotional changes and they have also hastened my planned midlife crisis from a predicted 40 to its humble beginning at 30.

"What the f*ck is it all about?" is the kind of deep philosophical question I ask myself whilst smoking a joint in my mate's back garden on a Monday evening. Going through this period of rebelling against the system, whilst simultaneously slaving to it in every possible way, has made me see Scorsese's moral challange from a different perspective.

Back in my teens and early 20s I though this film was "cool" because Travis goes mad, and people going mad and cutting their hair is cool right? Wrong! It's stupid. But that isn't what the film is about. The film, in my opinion, challenges on an extreme level our acceptence of the status quo, even if the staus quo is horrifying.

Early in the film, when Travis still has one foot in camp normal, he vaguely accepts the things that go on around him. The crime, the filth, the sheer debautury of it all are as normal as his then haircut. He does piss and moan about it, but from the realtive safety of his cab, not unlike any other Joe Unremarkable.

But is Travis, or anyone, "sane" to accept this? At what stage does it become "sane" to passively allow your local shops to be robbed at gunpoint for the umpteenth time this week? At what point does it become "sane" to allow a 12 year old girl to become the private property of a filth-wallowing streetpimp?

Today I don't see Travis' transformation as him going insane as such, but rather personally embedding himself in the moral reckoning of the people around him. What he did in the film's famous brothel scene was perfectly logical and sane on every level apart from the fear he had to confront to do the job.

I think this, more than the violence or themes of "going mad", makes the film edgy. Travis rejects received morality and takes it back to base morality, and this is what makes the film uncomfortable....and brilliant!

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Tue Aug 07, 2012 7:03 am
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Post Re: What does it mean to you?....Number 1: Taxi Driver
Watching Taxi Driver is like watching a man unravel. I don't mean Travis, although it's true that unraveling is exactly what he does. I mean Paul Schrader, whose script has similar content to the diaries of men like Arthur Bremer or Dylan Klebold. He is a man who makes deeply personal films, and never has his laundry been any dirtier or more publicly displayed. He was sick at the time that he wrote it. Perhaps because he wrote it, he got better.

Then there's Robert De Niro, who, in his early 20s, had a movie idea in which a young man stalks a random foreign ambassador with a gun. (Schrader suggested that the gun represented De Niro's untapped talent, which would eventually have to be fired and force people to take notice.) And then there's Scorsese, whose behind-the-scenes troubles in his life during that time period are well-documented. How unlikely that these three enormously talented young men would come together at the same time with the same destructive impulses and so instinctively craft this jewel of a film that reflects those impulses in its every facet.

Travis can't be said to stand for just one of them, because Travis is an archetype: the suicidally depressed 20-something male. Specifically, the one who instinctively directs his destructive impulse not only toward himself, but toward those he views to be his tormentors. The pimps, the pushers, the junkies, the dirty women--all just people who make the world such a terrible place for him to live in, who raise desires within him that simultaneously attract him and make him disgusted with himself. Stop me if anyone's heard this before.

The true genius of the film is that Travis is not The Other; everyone else is The Other to Travis. The film depicts Travis in a way that we understand him even before we're fully aware of where he's headed. It implicates us. It forces us to see him in ourselves.

Anytime you've ever been angry at the world, perhaps irrationally so, Travis is there. Anytime you've ever felt isolated and hopeless, Travis is there. Anytime you've ever felt angry enough to have fantasies of destruction, either about yourself or others, Travis is there. Maybe Travis wasn't smart enough or self-aware enough to stop himself, or maybe he was just a little too sick, which is why there are so few of him and so many of us.

Therein lies the harsh fact of the movie. There really isn't much of a difference between him and us. That is both chilling and strangely comforting. There is hope to be found in despair, but in order to find it you first must accept that Jared Loughner and James Holmes are not some other subspecies of human that fundamentally differs from the rest of us. You have to recognize your capacity for sickness before you can begin to heal.

The funny thing is, the trailer to Taxi Driver seems to believe the movie is a suspense thriller. "The Taxi Driver is out there," the voice dramatically intones. No, he's not. He's in here. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn't understand and maybe never will. Maybe that's why Taxi Driver kids always seem to come out of nowhere; the early warning signs only appearing in retrospect. Nobody wants to acknowledge their own destructive side, preferring the fairy tale that only evil people commit evil actions.

I didn't see the full depth of these qualities in Taxi Driver myself until I had my own early-20-something brush with self-centered despair. Prior to that, I appreciated the film more as an intellectual construction, with its emotional side at a slight distance. However, following that, it became essential to making peace within myself, picking myself up, and getting my shit back together. Needless to say, I am indebted to it. Taxi Driver remains fascinating to me. There is always more to discover.


Sat Aug 11, 2012 6:13 pm
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Post Re: What does it mean to you?....Number 1: Taxi Driver
Wonderfully articulated Ken. I agree 100%

Amazing movie!


Sun Aug 12, 2012 11:27 pm
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Post Re: What does it mean to you?....Number 1: Taxi Driver
I didn't know where to post this so I dug up this topic. I had never read this before but I thought it was pretty interesting.

Quote:
By the time I got the role in Taxi Driver, I’d already made more stuff than De Niro or Martin Scorsese. I’d been working from the time I was three years old. So even though I was only twelve, I felt like I was the veteran there.

De Niro took me aside before we started filming. He kept picking me up from my hotel and taking me to different diners. The first time he basically didn’t say anything. He would just, like, mumble. The second time he started to run lines with me, which was pretty boring because I already knew the lines. The third time, he ran lines with me again and now I was really bored. The fourth time, he ran lines with me, but then he started going off on these completely different ideas within the scene, talking about crazy things and asking me to follow in terms of improvisation.

So we’d start with the original script and then he’d go off on some tangent and I’d have to follow, and then it was my job to eventually find the space to bring him back to the last three lines of the text we’d already learned.

It was a huge revelation for me, because until that moment I thought being an actor was just acting naturally and saying the lines someone else wrote. Nobody had ever asked me to build a character. The only thing they’d ever done to direct me was to say something like “Say it faster” or “Say it slower.” So it was a whole new feeling for me, because I realized acting was not a dumb job. You know, I thought it was a dumb job. Somebody else writes something and then you repeat it. Like, how dumb is that?

There was this moment, in some diner somewhere, when I realized for the first time that it was me who hadn’t brought enough to the table. And I felt this excitement where you’re all sweaty and you can’t eat and you can’t sleep.

Changed my life. - Jodie Foster on how Robert de Niro taught her how to act.

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Mon Jan 06, 2014 3:47 am
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Post Re: What does it mean to you?....Number 1: Taxi Driver
Quote:
Last year I rewatched this film for the first time since my early 20s and it was interesting to watch it through different eyes and in a different context. A lot changed for me between the ages of 21 and 29.


I'm probably on a similar boat, not seeing it since my early 20's. I've been meaning to rewatch it for awhile, but haven't gotten around to it. At 30-something now, I wonder the same as you.

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Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:32 am
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Post Re: What does it mean to you?....Number 1: Taxi Driver
Thief12 wrote:
Quote:
Last year I rewatched this film for the first time since my early 20s and it was interesting to watch it through different eyes and in a different context. A lot changed for me between the ages of 21 and 29.


I'm probably on a similar boat, not seeing it since my early 20's. I've been meaning to rewatch it for awhile, but haven't gotten around to it. At 30-something now, I wonder the same as you.



Do it, it blew me away.

Like watching a completely different film.

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Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:34 am
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Post Re: What does it mean to you?....Number 1: Taxi Driver
I haven't seen in about 20 years! It's one of those movies that really stays with you, changes you. Think I'll wait another 10 years or so before watching it again - I like to think I remember it too well still.


Mon Jan 06, 2014 6:07 pm
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