Made in 1976. Written by Paul Schrader. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Performed by Robert De Niro. An all-time classic. Everbody knows it. I knew it, except I hadn’t seen it. I knew the iconic scene where De Niro looks at the camera and says, “Are you talking to me!?”, but that was all. I must say, it was not what I expected. I thought it would be fast-paced with lots of action. It surprised me.
Set in New York, a Vietnam war veteran gets a job as a ‘cabbie’ and tries to start his new life. Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) works long hours to try and pre-occupy his mind, but slowly he falls into the realm of insanity. A couple of events bring him to breaking point. He tries to woo a beautiful blonde lady (Cybill Shepherd), but all his efforts come to nothing. Taking her to see a porn film on the first date was probably a bad call. Then, he tries to help a twelve-year-old prostitute (Jodie Foster) out of her situation. His loneliness and unhappiness with society boil beneath his skin and in the end, he can’t stand to watch anymore and goes out to do something (violent) about it.
Definitely a noir film. The film depicts 1970s New York as a socially ill place without a moral compass. This combined with the story of a mentally ill war veteran gets you thinking. Who is the sick one? Society or Travis Bickle? There is so much discussion to be had. Is Travis an anti-hero or just a lunatic?
It is quite a slow-paced film, but it never bores. Cinematography is superb starting with rain on a car windscreen and blurry lights, visually stunning. So often New York is portrayed as a glamorous super rich place and the same locations are always shown (cough…Times Square), so it is great seeing the other darker side of the coin. An incredible intense film, which lingers on in the psyche.