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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 9:39 am 
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Taxi Driver

I watched this again recently, only to be completely broadsided by the end...again.

Does anyone think this is one of the most perfectly executed films of all time only to be almost completely destroyed by the last few minutes? At first, I assumed the end was a dream, and I thought that was fantastic; however, apparently Scorsese denies this. On the laser disc commentary and on the 30th anniversary commentary, but Scorsese and Schrader acknowledge the dream possibility, but seem to bypass it by suggesting a reality where Bickle might do it again and is a ticking time-bomb.

Even though we might all agree that Bickle was perfectly in the right to kill the pimp, our society doesn't take kindly to vigilantes. While you can tell some time has gone by since his hair has grown back, I don't know if I buy the notion that he would be back on the street as if nothing ever happened. To add insult to injury, Betsy gets in the cab and is completely angelic towards him?

If it were a dying man's dream, Yes. However, to interpret that any of it is rooted in reality seems like to much a stretch, in my opinion.

Thoughts?


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 9:42 am 
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If the ending is literal, I'm not a fan of it, but I have noticed that I never think about the ending when I think of this film. Somehow it completely fails to tarnish the rest of the movie, and I still think of the whole package as being flawless. I can't really think of another movie with a poor ending that I can say that about.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 9:56 am 
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I actually like the ending, esp. the bit where Travis looks in his rearview mirror and does that quick double take as he thinks he sees something that wasn't there before. That, to me, is a nice little way of saying that he is just as unhinged as he was before and that history will repeat itself.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:00 am 
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Fletch F. Fletch wrote:
I actually like the ending

So, it doesn't bother you that there have seemingly been no ramifications from the deadly hotel shootout?


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:11 am 
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aox wrote:
So, it doesn't bother you that there have seemingly been no ramifications from the deadly hotel shootout?

Well, he did rescue a little girl from prostitution from a bunch of scumbags that probably no one gave a crap about. Look at what happened to Bernard Goetz. Maybe Travis served a few months and was released. I don't think that it really isn't very important to Scorsese and Schrader as is showing that Travis hasn't really changed all that much, that he's still a ticking time bomb.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:27 am 
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Fletch F. Fletch wrote:
aox wrote:
So, it doesn't bother you that there have seemingly been no ramifications from the deadly hotel shootout?

Well, he did rescue a little girl from prostitution from a bunch of scumbags that probably no one gave a crap about. Look at what happened to Bernard Goetz. Maybe Travis served a few months and was released. I don't think that it really isn't very important to Scorsese and Schrader as is showing that Travis hasn't really changed all that much, that he's still a ticking time bomb.

I am not sure the Goertz case presents an analogous situation here. Nevertheless, I somehow feel that a psychiatric evaluation would have been done on Bickle at some point during a trial and assumed incarceration (Let's assume the end is years later for the sake of argument). Pretty much everyone (including Scorsese and Schrader) state or interpret that Bickle is still mentally unstable and 'it could happen again'. I am not convinced he would be on the street again (yes, I know; perhaps I have too much faith in our system).

Even with all of this, throwing Betsy into the mix seems inexcusable for its complete improbability. The only reason I bring this is up is because this seems to be a film that, up until the end, prides itself on its gritty realism. For it to dive into these scenes without the explanation of them being a dying man's dream, I find too hard to swallow.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:29 am 
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So, it doesn't bother you that there have seemingly been no ramifications from the deadly hotel shootout?

But there have been ramifications - Travis is now regarded as a hero. We expect him to have died after the shootout, and I think because of its extreme violence and the rather pitiful deaths of everyone in the brothel (I guess spoilers are inevitable with this discussion) we regard Travis as a completely unhinged psychopath. We expect the film to end with the cop holding the gun on him and the camera panning back over the carnage he has wrought, while the half-triumphant, half-crazy Bernard Herrmann Nazi-ish march plays on the soundtrack. The film could have ended here quite easily.

The twist is that New York City turns out to be so sick that it regards the guy as a hero. Having been given a privileged insight into Bickle's spiralling-out-of-control mind, we are totally disoriented at the end. Compare it to the ending of King of Comedy (Scorsese's best, in my opinion). Rupert's success may not be a dream, but merely a comment on the sick state of TV culture. At the end of Taxi Driver, perhaps the suggestion is that Travis is in some sense right about New York, or that it's such a fucked up place he actually fits in very well...

The really ambiguous bit about the ending is the letter from Iris's parents. I'm not sure what we're supposed to make of that. I guess we sort of lose sight of her amid the violence, and the fact that she will be sent back to her parents and no longer be a prostitute is something we're not likely to have anticipated - so it makes the happy ending plausible as well as surprising. You can sort of hear the discomfort in the voice of the mother, though - she clearly doesn't actually want Travis to visit them. Certainly her gratitude is ironic, when you remember how Iris reacted to seeing Travis shoot that guy's brains all over the wallpaper.

As for Betsy - God knows what her character is all about. I think Cybill Shepherd pretty much ruins any chance of this being a 3-D character with comprehensible motivations. I guess it is the way she's written/directed as well, Scorsese tends not to be that good with female characters. She's the one part of this film I always try to ignore.

Also - and this might seem like a lazy response - I think Scorsese is a master of style with very little substance. Very few of his films have any real emotional, psychological or intellectual depth, they're more exercises in style than anything else, and they work by producing effects in the viewer on a moment-to-moment basis, rather than accumulating some big point that makes sense.

At worst, this approach can ruin the film and turn it into a three-hour trailer (Casino), or just an expensive muddle (Gangs of New York). At best, it produces films like Taxi Driver, King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Last Temptation, Mean Streets etc, none of which exactly has a message, but all of which are coherent in that they give an effective overall impression of a place, a period, or a state of mind. Trying to draw out something like a point from Taxi Driver's ending is probably misguided, but I think if you focus on the effect it has on you as a viewer - that is, the disorientation it induces - then it works and makes sense.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 1:16 pm 
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Sloper wrote:
I think Scorsese is a master of style with very little substance. Very few of his films have any real emotional, psychological or intellectual depth, they're more exercises in style than anything else, and they work by producing effects in the viewer on a moment-to-moment basis, rather than accumulating some big point that makes sense..

With all due respect I think that's a massive loss on your end. While Scorsese may not be a Social-Statement filmmaker, there is a deluge of substance that you're missing.. and as far as style is concerned, I couldn't disagree more (at least for his classic films 1970's-Casino).

His films quite simply tell stories, and they do so with a massive amount of emotion and Life, and yet remain essentially devoid of editorialization or social comment. Regardless whether rendering an anguished urbanite suffering from acute alienation & depression, an outer-borough mafia wiseguy, a boxer, a frustrated comic at his wit's end-- the substance is the extreme authenticity. You smile when you first see them because you say to yourself "this dude has nailed The Real Deal in a way I've never seen before." And the style in his best works are always connected-- to a fault-- to the substance, the inner life of these characters. Scorcese rarely descends into purey visual filmmaking, which is where style over substance directors tend to masturbate... lovingly lit gleaming interiors, ambiguous long tracking shots with no seeming purpose, extended focusing on inanimate objects with some hidden meaning, etc. His stylistic effects always UNDERLINE something going on within a scene or narrative (Travis' trancelike state via closeups on his eyes, slowdowns of him walking thru a crowd, dollying his floating walk to the whorehouse stooge, etc)... in fact, if he ever flirts with the appearance of meaningless stylistic effect-- i e the endlessly debated tracking away from Travis while on the pay phone w Betsy, which I see as far from ambiguous and very clear in fact--it sticks out like a sore thumb.

The hallmark of his films-- his best films anyhoo-- are how deeply felt they are. They are loaded with authenticity and feeling, an almost unprecedented connection to the predicament of his characters, where the streets they take place on virtually boil off the screen, where the actors chosen to play those livid scripts seem to have come from the very world their characters inhabit, it all registers so authentically.

I actually find it very hard to pin down a Scorsese "style" outside of this. Technically, he's not super-repetitive with specific technical effects (i e Dreyer or Tarkovsky's long tracking shots, Eisenstein's montage, Ozu or Bresson's reductive concentration, etc). So on that end I'd say it's near-impossible to accuse his films of being pure "style".

Sloper wrote:
all of which are coherent in that they give an effective overall impression of a place, a period, or a state of mind.

That's totally accurate, but I'd add one more word-- "story". He is (or was once) a wonderful storyteller, in his own unique way.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 1:51 pm 
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Just a question (I quite like all Scorsese's films, though I have not yet seen Kundun) following Schreck's excellent post: would you feel that post-Casino Scorsese lost that deep emotional connection to his material and perhaps moved to compensate for that lack with style?

I've heard Casino (and also The Age Of Innocence) being labelled that way but for me those films use their style in wonderful service of their stories.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 1:54 pm 
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I am no Scorsese fan but this is easily the best of his films that I've seen, and I don't understand how anyone could take the ending literally. It's so absurdly at odds with the rest of the film that it only works if read as wish fulfillment


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:01 pm 
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domino harvey wrote:
I am no Scorsese fan but this is easily the best of his films that I've seen, and I don't understand how anyone could take the ending literally. It's so absurdly at odds with the rest of the film that it only works if read as wish fulfillment

I agree with you 100%. But the director and writer told you and me that we're essentially wrong. This is what I find troubling.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:06 pm 
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aox wrote:
domino harvey wrote:
I am no Scorsese fan but this is easily the best of his films that I've seen, and I don't understand how anyone could take the ending literally. It's so absurdly at odds with the rest of the film that it only works if read as wish fulfillment

I agree with you 100%. But the director and writer told you and me that we're essentially wrong. This is what I find troubling.

Authorial intent is meaningless. It doesn't matter what an artist thinks their works says, it matters what it does say.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:23 pm 
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domino harvey wrote:
aox wrote:
But the director and writer told you and me that we're essentially wrong. This is what I find troubling.

Authorial intent is meaningless. It doesn't matter what an artist thinks their works says, it matters what it does say.

I've read your opinions on this topic throughout the board, and I again, agree with you completely. But, IMO, this isn't even a matter of interpretation, unless of course, they tried to literally sabotage their own film with a ridiculous ending.

This is so extreme, in my opinion, that I almost view it as Fellini trying to convince me the opening scene in 8 1/2 also isn't a dream.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:49 pm 
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I've never thought of the ending as a dream per se (like, say, some of the final moments of Brazil) but more like an alternate reality, only possible in the movies. Taxi Driver is not a crime procedural. The whole movie, Bickle is searching for a way to make a difference, and in the end he does, in a very nonconventional and cinematic way. There are any number of ways the film could have ended, but Scorsese & Schrader (regardless of what they claim to have intended) chose to follow the brutal, damning climax with an unexpected, uplifting ending--a small, personal victory. This, to me, makes the film much more fascinating than if it had just been about the transformation of a social misfit into a cold-blooded killer.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 3:48 pm 
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This too is my favorite Scorsese, and one of my favorite American films (hell, films period, from anywhere) of all time.

I always saw the ending in fluctuating ways.. sometimes I'd have problem with it, sometimes I thought it feasable.

The fact is I just take it for what it is-- a sequence of events that play out to reveal one of the most anguished points of the film.. that even after the purging bloodbath that Travis engages in, his striking back, freeing Iris, and having the opportunity to get the girl he's been aching for... his condition stays the same. It doesn't help him.. it was, from that standpoint, all for nothing.

As for whether something like that is possible-- the killings, and lack of an arrest, etc-- I think it absolutely is. Especially if it were publicly portrayed as: He went in there to rescue the young girl, and the slimy gangsters tried to prevent her from being rescued by shooting at him & trying to kill him. They don't know he went in there to kill anybody, they think he went in there to do something valiant.. do something the corrupt 1970's cops (you must remember the time and place and how openly crime soaked the streets of NYC were) wouldn't do, and fight back against pimps and mobsters and actually cut to the chase and take a 13 yr old hooker out of her cathouse. Newspapers do get hold of crimes & stories that have a certain ring to them, and spin them their own way, which affects the whole way the case plays out and even whether or not there's a trial.

If Bush can spin the Iraq war and all his shenannigans, Palin can be spun into VP material, then the papers can definitely spin a white boy killer of slimy mob pimps-- forcing a pretty blond hair blue eyed 13 yr old girl from the midwest into slum prostitution-- into a white Knight (no matter how the cops who witnessed actual the crime scene and knew the probable homicidal truth behind Travis' visit would laugh at the idea). Nothing could be easier, in fact.

What would be the PR alternative for the courts & politicians once the papers began spinning the story that way and the public bought into it-- present the sleazeball pimps as the victims.. especially when Travis himself was shot by them while trying to rescue a 13 yr old child?

I can't see the ending as wish-fulfillment because Travis goes completely paranoiac in the rear-view for that moment... his wish is to be normal, "tio become a person like other people." He wouldn't fantasize about remaining a hopeless nut after finally getting what he's wanted in his dreams...

And besides, the little Roman kids on the side of the river (the one Cabiria came out of) weren't witnesses to the daydream-- so it didnt happen.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 4:23 pm 
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Thanks for your many insightful comments HerrSchreck. This is also one of my favorite films of all time (if not occassionally the) but at times I find it difficult to echo my sentiments on the film without sounding like a blithering idiot. You've managed to do this quite nicely (the echoing part, not the idiot), and with all dignity still intact. Good show!


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 5:15 pm 

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Interesting interpretation:

Travis lay slumped on the couch in Iris' room, one bullet in the neck and one in the right shoulder, though he may have been shot elsewhere by Sport or the gangster who came out of Iris' room. In any case, Travis looks like the young man at the end of The Big Shave . He also looks like Jesus Christ on the cross. Travis does not want to live anymore. He puts his left index finger on his temple and mimes three shots : Pgghew... Pgghew... Pgghew...

From then on, we step back into Travis' mental dissociation. We have crossed over to the other side of the looking glass. We see Travis in an extreme overhead shot laying immobile with his head resting on the couch. Travis has left his physical body and is looking at himself dying . We have adopted the point of view of his schizophrenic vision, his spiritual self or astral body engaged in a kind of transcendental voyage. As if in a purgatory, he witnesses the consequences of his actions: blood dripping everywhere, three dead bodies, Iris his fallen angel crying and desperate. Still moving outward, he leaves the scene of the crime.

What follows is Travis' schizoid fantasy. He moves through his old room, left unchanged . The television set that Travis destroyed is seen anew (is it the same or a better model?). The paper clippings on the wall could very well be those we couldn't make out earlier. A reviewer from the Canadian Forum (May 1976) made an interesting point: "The clippings, however, are cold type phonies without the typographical stamp of N.Y. dailies. Besides, such a story just would not be played in such a way." It's precisely the case here: those dailies wouldn't, but Travis' deranged alter ego certainly would. He sees himself becoming the traditional hero, the movie cliché decried by the press. Further proof can be found on the first article stuck to the wall; we notice two graphic sketches of the scene of the crime which reproduce exactly the same perspective as seen in the overhead shot!

Travis even fabricates the letter supposedly written by Mr. and Mrs. Steensma, Iris' parents. For the first time in the narrative, the first person voice-over motif has been broken by introducing a new voice: Mr. Steensma reading his letter posted on the wall. But this is a strange voice indeed. It reflects a lot of the manerism, inflictions and speech pattern of Travis' own voice when he reads the birthday card addressed to his own parents earlier in the film. Furthermore, the writing styles closely resemble one another. For example, Travis wrote: "I hope this card finds you all well as it does me," a strange wording echoing this sentence in Mr. Steensma's letter: <(...) we have taken steps to see she has never cause to run away again.> Even the typography of the birthday card, the note left for Iris and this letter is the same. This letter even refers to Travis being in a coma, a coma he probably is in while Mr. Steensma reads on...

In as much as he considers himself the traditional hero, it is fitting that Travis should be acclaimed and congratulated by the police, the press, Iris' parents, his collegues, even by Betsy. But for film critic Jack Kroll of Newsweek (76-03-01), "it is simply incredible when Travis is hailed a hero after the slaughter, despite the fact he'd been armed like a weapons platoon and had previously been spotted, Mohawk haircut and all, by the Secret Services." It doesn't make sense if the ending is to be taken literally, but it does fit perfectly within Travis' schizoid delirium in which he must be the hero.

For the fantasy to be completely satisfying, Travis must again meet his Muse, his angel Betsy. She appears hence as a vision amongst the lights in the cab's rearview mirror. En route, she seems to express regrets and sympathy towards Travis, as if she could have forgiven his weird behavior. When she gets off the cab, it seems as if she wants to ask him out. This attitude upsets everything we know of the character. Could she really forget and forgive that easily? For one, Travis forgives her. Flipping the taxi meter, he absolves her completely. Of what? Did she commit any sins? The "macho movie cliche of the heroine who returns to the hero" despised by Richard Combs in the Monthly Film Bulletin (September 1976) is fully integrated by Travis into his Hollywood fantasm.

For the entire duration of this sequence, starting with the overhead shot, one could assume that Travis is bleeding to death while in a state of delirium. So as the taxi cab leaves Betsy behind on the sidewalk and the camera pans inside the car to frame the rearview mirror, perhaps Travis is about to die. If this prologue is to be taken as a dreamt destiny, the delirium of a dying man, then Travis won't make it. This thus explains the reverberation of the xylophone heard when Travis adjusts the mirror. This sound could be linked to the tone of an electrocardiograph's warning signalling the stopping of the heart. This would explain why Travis has disappeared from the frame. We are left with his schizoid vision. Travis has finally achieved the penultimate goal dictated by Wizard's twisted philosophy: he has become a taxi driver for eternity. In Freudian terms, his Id overpowered his Ego and destroyed his Alter Ego. In death, Travis has joined Jesus at the conclusion of The Last Temptation of Christ in a similar tunnel of light as described in near-death experiences. The spiritual has ultimately transcended the physical.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 5:28 pm 
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Pgghew... Pgghew... Pgghew...


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Interesting topic gents. For my money if there is any element in TAXI DRIVER which stretches credulity it is the plot point of Travis alienating Betsy via the faux pas of taking her to the porno theatre. Travis is supposed to be out of touch but this gambit skates dangerously close to making him out a complete moron, someone at the mental level of the Okie hack played by Scorsese rube in residence Harry Northrup. He's the guy who shows off the bathtub tile to Travis, Wizard and the other drivers that's supposedly from Errol Flynn's bathroom ("see the water line? One .. two... Three people!) and that he intends to hawk to passengers. He would absolutely take a date to a Times Square fleapit for a triple-X date! I know from interviews with Schrader that the inspiration for TD came from a period when he was actually hacking and recall that he was drinking heavily and trying to stay awake by attending porno films. I've always thought this autobiographical element was rather clumsily carried over in his script that it was less than convincing. It actually took me out of the narrative loop the first time I saw the film and to this day I find it jarring at least every other time I rewatch it.

One the other hand I've never had nearly the problem with the ending that others seem to. Schrecko gives a thorough defense of it in literal terms and Fletch alludes to the rear view mirror double take which is of major importance. The music over this shot abruptly swithces from the bluesy jazz sax into a distintive three note motif from Herrmann's PSYCHO which is used in the finale over Norman's (Mother's?) skullface stare and the shot of Marion's car emerging from the swamp. There is much that can be inferred by this (the obvious being a comparison of Norman's and Travis' madness) but also that "rational" explanations (PSYCHO's psychiatrist/TAXI DRIVER's tabliod newspaper clippings) conceal as much as they reveal.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 6:05 pm 
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props55 wrote:
For my money if there is any element in TAXI DRIVER which stretches credulity it is the plot point of Travis alienating Betsy via the faux pas of taking her to the porno theatre.

While it might appear that way today, at the time (70's New York), going to porno movies was a rather trendy thing for couples to do. There are other, mostly psychological, reasons why Travis takes her that vindicates the scene, but the contextual one is enough I think.


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colinr0380 wrote:
Just a question ..: would you feel that post-Casino Scorsese lost that deep emotional connection to his material and perhaps moved to compensate for that lack with style?

I'd have to say-- because I've been saying that about both Scorsese & Coppola for years-- Yes.

In Scorsese's case what it is I think he's lost is his identification with what he considered to be Real Tough Guys, street guys, real fringe guys, and I mean that in the least glamorous sense... a sense that he knew what the genuine Hard Dudes were all really like, were all about, and that he knew that he knew that Hollywood had never experienced a genuine rendering of a real wiseguy, a real fringe character hustling out on the sociological shadows. Not that Scorsese himself was one of them himself, but that he knew them, probably identified with a certain part of them within himself, observed them keenly, and knew how to bring this world up on the screen.. could deliver the talk, the mannerisms, etc.

Another thing I think Scorcese has lost is his rage, his desperation, his enthusiastic identification with alienated urbanites. He knew how to organize the echoes of the streets he brought with him and transport them wholesale onto the screen with a very emotional sense of Art. It was quite beautiful and special while it lasted, and his reputation can sit alongside anyone anywhere from any time because the work there for awhile was so dominant.

I think he believed in grit and sadness almost as a religion... I think he found great comfort in expressing gloom, toughness and danger. You look at his face during the 70's and he looks like an utterly miserable man... manic, obsessed, and completely unhappy.

I think what happened is-- he became an American Icon. Slowly but surely that uniquely grim young Scorsese was replaced by another happier man, and coincidentally the hardassed NYC he so fanatically hewed to (and refused to move from) as his inspiration eventually disappeared, along with that whole openly criminal, hustling, fringe, dislocated element you'd see wherever you went. NYC is mass upperclass real estate nowadays.

Growth on Scorsese's part is not a bad thing of course... but one can sense from the getgo the level of inspiration and identification, the depth of feeling is just not the same in these later works. Incredible that DiCaprio in Gangs is the product of the same man who made Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, TD, etc..


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Herr Schreck wrote:
I actually find it very hard to pin down a Scorsese "style" outside of this. Technically, he's not super-repetitive with specific technical effects (i e Dreyer or Tarkovsky's long tracking shots, Eisenstein's montage, Ozu or Bresson's reductive concentration, etc). So on that end I'd say it's near-impossible to accuse his films of being pure "style".

It's Scorsese's late films that have made me feel like he's become a bit masturbatory, and this to me is the problem with them, though you may also be onto something when you say he's lost that sense of identification and personal involvement. I'm far from qualified to do so, but I think it would absolutely be possible to identify a Scorsese style, and there are certainly a lot of characteristic little tics.

Right from the beginning, there's the use of rock music to do the talking in certain scenes; sometimes he does this brilliantly (the slow motion intro of De Niro in Mean Streets, or the Sunshine of Your Love bit in Goodfellas), but how many more times do we have to hear Gimme Bloody Shelter? (Once in Goodfellas, twice in Casino, and at least three times in The Departed, I mean come on there are other songs...) And there's that awful effect he keeps doing where he zooms in on something by doing a sequence of progressively closer dissolves - don't know what the technical term for it is but it got really boring in Gangs.

If you're saying his style varies from film to film this is certainly true, but so did Dreyer's, so did Eisenstein's - could you tell Joan of Arc and Gertrud were made by the same person, or Strike and Ivan the Terrible?

But yes, Scorsese's best films have lots of substance in their own way - he's one of my favourite filmmakers, and probably still the best American director working today. It's just that the more I watch his films, the more I admire the way they're made and the less I give a damn what they're about. Listen to his commentaries, or interviews, or watch that Personal Journey Through American Film thing - the man is a fascinating talker, passionate about films, with lots to say, eminently quotable... But there's something profoundly empty and unedifying about it all, especially when he talks about his own films. His comment on the ending of Taxi Driver is typical; he's also given quite a reductive explanation of the ending of Goodfellas; and whenever he talks about the Big Ideas in his films, frankly it's a little embarrassing.

I think he cares more that a film looks right and sounds right than that it makes sense in narrative or character terms. In Casino and Gangs I think there are real implausibilities that scupper the films, but as for Taxi Driver...

swo17 wrote:
There are any number of ways the film could have ended, but Scorsese & Schrader (regardless of what they claim to have intended) chose to follow the brutal, damning climax with an unexpected, uplifting ending--a small, personal victory. This, to me, makes the film much more fascinating than if it had just been about the transformation of a social misfit into a cold-blooded killer.

I reckon this is as good an explanation of the ending as any - it makes the film more interesting, it gives the intelligentsia something to chew over, the whole thing becomes even more arty and ambiguous than it already was. I mean there's lots of freaky shit that happens in Taxi Driver with no readily apparent explanation, and you can rationalise it if you try hard enough - this is after all about a man going mad, nothing makes sense in his head or his world, so why should it make sense in the film? - but to do so seems to be missing the point.

I think Schreck is right to say it's about telling a story, but those who come to this film expecting a normal three-act plot are inevitably disappointed by its disjointed, European arthouse style. The story, to me, is about what a great film this is, how inventively it uses the medium, how brilliantly it manipulates and provokes the audience. Try as I might, I've never been able to really care about a single character in any Scorsese film - they are all about the man's love of cinema and what it can do, and the characters and plots and rational sense always seem to get lost in the mix.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:32 am 
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This too is my favorite Scorsese, and one of my favorite American films (hell, films period, from anywhere) of all time ...

Excellent and articulate post, and I hate to respond with anything less than an 'essay'. However, I think most of this is negated by the reintroduction of Betsy in the final scenes. This, to me, is unforgivable and completely destroys any possibility that we aren't seeing a dream or a dying man's fantasy.

Even if you are going to argue that it still is real, then I feel it reduces this film to 'sloppy' film making. Especially considering the gritty realism that the viewer sits through for a hour and 1/2.

Without the end being in Bickle's head, I can't see how this seemingly tacked on ending isn't at the very least an insult to the viewer's intelligence.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:37 am 
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aox wrote:
However, I think most of this is negated by the reintroduction of Betsy in the final scenes. This, to me, is unforgivable and completely destroys any possibility that we aren't seeing a dream or a dying man's fantasy.

How so? You say in your first post that Betsy acts all angelic to him. I disagree. I think she is merely being polite, acting like nothing bad ever happened to him because that's what she is like. Maybe she sees him in a different light because he has been painted as a "hero" in the press but, to me, it does nothing to suggest that this merely a dream. It's not like they suddenly confess their love to each other. She gets out and that's it. Travis goes on his way, perhaps to kill again.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:41 am 
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Ditto--

I don't see Besty as being 'all angelic'.. if anything it's possibly a slight commentary on her character that puts her in a mildly negative light.

Betsy is rendered-- to my eyes-- as a bit naiive here & there.. the spilled pieces of styrofoam cup, the "if you had this finger missing on this hand, and this hand missing on this hand," etc, a bit flighty. There's a slight element of "Oh all of a sudden you're nice to him because of his 15 minutes of fame" involved there. But yet if the city played him up as a heroic white knight, and he had a little moment in the sun, and she felt she was suddenly riding with a guy that the whole city wants to thank and congratulate for doing a thankless good deed.. she might have genuinely felt, not knowing the truth about his homicidal assault on the tenement... she'd hang there feeling like she was sitting there with someone who's receiving adulation for being a Rare Genuine Good Guy, and whom she originally treated like shit... who she may feel that she read wrong.

But if anything there's just a sense of passing sadness to the scene. I still sense slight pity for him in her manner, and a slight embarassment in his. The moment in the car doesn't work for either one of them, there's no clicking, and there's a melancholy in the air.. Two people who once had a failed interlude of interaction bumping up against each other again (in an entirely believable fashion.. the guy's a cabbie, shes a midtown professional) after some time has gone by, fumbling to find words to pass the time, with the rejected man who's turned out To Have More To Him Than She Supposed being cagey & hard to get, and with her being polite and uncomfortable and basically showing No Hard Feelings.

What the hell is so hard to believe? She's not asking him out for a date, begging for forgiveness, saying "I was wrong" etc. She's just curiously, very lighly inquisitive and gazing searchingly at this strange fellow who she was once attracted to and whom she doesn't understand, who she didnt think respected women, who it turns out appears to have committed a very brave and rare act of female-child rescue.

If the interaction is not believeable-- how would you have written the scene? Besty gets into Travis' cab, and then _____________________--?

(Also, you must remember the scene is almost a verbatim riff off of the song by Harry Chapin that was very popular and in the air at the time called Taxi, where two ex lovers meet, with the male a Taxi driver, and the ex girlfriend a surprise fare... complete with a reversal of the "Harry keep the change line," this time with Travis too proud and feeling-- or wanting act like he is-- above her to accept her money.)


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