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PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:18 pm 
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I guess it's impossible to remove the scene from its cinematic context as a final shootout, a hero killing bad people. So in a sense it'll always have that baggage, even if it never buys into the idea itself. I'm not sure I personally felt a grandeur in it (tho' I have no doubt Travis saw it as having grandeur). I still remember my reaction to it when I first saw it on tv, back when I was in high school, and I remember being taken aback by how unpleasant and blunt it was.

I know for sure that something like The Wild Bunch has a genuine grandeur even amidst the horror, where the violence almost reaches an apocalyptic intensity. In terms of "queasy appeal," tho', I think Taxi Driver shares something with the gunfights in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, which aren't exciting so much as grungy and ugly.

I suppose my point is that unlike a lot of its contemporaries, Taxi Driver doesn't glorify its violence much at all. It's all expertly composed to seem blunt, grimy, and unpleasant. As you say, the physical damage is very different from conventional gunshot wounds in the movies: there are no exaggerated squibs and bodies tumbling all over, but mutilated hands, bullets to the face rather than the forehead, and other things we aren't used to seeing. It's not conventional, and therefore safe, violence. And by the end of it, Travis isn't left standing amidst a pile of bodies like a hero; he's a mess and barely manages to jerk himself off the floor and onto a dilapidated couch.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 12:51 am 
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While there isn't a grandeur, there is definitely a deliberate sexualization of violence going on in that scene, something Scorsese picked up from Peckinpah and ran with. It's Travis's sole sexual release in the film, as much as anything else. So while Scorsese undoubtedly treats it as an ugly thing, those rhythms and vibrations are all there... Undercut and frustrated no doubt by the sheer ugliness, but that subjective treatment can't help but make the violence ambiguously seductive.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:39 am 
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Cold Bishop wrote:
While there isn't a grandeur, there is definitely a deliberate sexualization of violence going on in that scene, something Scorsese picked up from Peckinpah and ran with. It's Travis's sole sexual release in the film, as much as anything else. So while Scorsese undoubtedly treats it as an ugly thing, those rhythms and vibrations are all there... Undercut and frustrated no doubt by the sheer ugliness, but that subjective treatment can't help but make the violence ambiguously seductive.

Could you explain how Scorsese sexualized that scene, at least formally? I understand how it would be a kind of sexual release for Travis, and that the movie very much inhabits his subjectivity. But I rewatched that scene last night and completely missed any sexual over- or undertones.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 12:54 pm 
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I too am completely baffled-- I don't see any overt sexual symbols or undertones in this scene. The only way I could see sexuality entering into the scene is via the general idea that all overabundances of male energy come from the sex drive . . . and that this explosive release is a byproduct of Travis' immense buildup of agonized, boiling frustration. This would be something the viewer would simply be imagining/carrying into the scene via the preceding text, however--not via any clear visual or textual clues in the mise en scene of the actual attack on the brothel.

That would make the scene related--perhaps-- in a tangential way to Travis' sexuality. But as an expression of sexual violence, directly and specifically, a la the way Jack The Ripper plunging his blade into a woman's vagina is patently sexual violence, I have my doubts.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 8:43 pm 
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I don't think its difficult to see: the editing rhythms (slow motion lulls of various speed building to explosive crescendos of bloodshed), the obvious phallic overtones (guns, gunfire), but more importantly the entire narrative arc of the film, wherein Travis sublimates his sexual frustration into increasingly violent impulses. I don't think it's any mistake that Travis's gun obsession begins with a scene of threatened sexual violence (Scorsese advertising the effects of a .44 Magnum). And his "rescuing" of Iris has plenty of psychosexual baggage: Travis trading one failed sexual obsession (Betsy) for a far less threatening one, even as his morality forces him to reimagine it as something much more heroic (doubly so, when his original suicidal plan fails him). It's probably not the only going on here, but its a major aspect of the film.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 9:29 pm 
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There was only one slow motion section in that scene, tho': when Travis backs up the stairs as the handless man pursues, cut to a high-angle shot of the mobster leaving the room and shooting Travis in the arm, prompting Travis to eject (yea, yeah) his hidden gun and shoot the mobster.

The other moments have nothing like the editing you're talking about. The first is a tracking shot following Travis from behind as he walks down the hallway and suddenly blows off the hand of the man coming down the stairs--no set-up, no cut to better show Travis raising the gun as preparation. Next comes a sudden cut to blood hitting Travis' face and some cuts of the gunfire echoing off the various empty stairwells of the building, finishing with a shot of Iris looking frightened. Cut back to Travis' face, then a cut back to the angle behind Travis in time for his neck to suddenly explode open (why, we don't know). There's a pause as Travis turns around, looking confused. Then there's a cut to Sport shooting twice. Cut back to Travis who returns fire, causing sport to stumble against the door and fall to the ground. Then the most unusual shot comes, which is a stationary long shot from on top of the stairs of Travis pausing, walking away down the hallway and shooting Sport's body a couple times (this latter bit is obscured by darkness) then walking back down the hallway and shooting the handless man again.

The interesting thing is that there is no crescendo in all of this; there's no buildup. It's all very sudden and surprising. Especially Travis' wounding, which happens after a pause, without warning. The reveal of the shooter and his spatial relation to Travis is delayed. The editing throughout is fairly slow, allowing at least a beat or two after each moment of bloodshed for us to sit there shocked. That one long-shot is especially conspicuous, because it's so removed and un-kinetic (it's just Travis walking back and forth down a hallway shooting at stationary targets). It's really not a build-up then release editing structure. The big, violent moments occur immediately, then the editing pauses for a moment to allow the shock to set in.


I agree with the thematic stuff you say for sure. I'm not convinced (yet) by the editing point.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 9:57 pm 
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I can't say I agree with the editing being sexual, but I think you could make a case for the lighting- it is a whorehouse, after all, and there's sort of orange/red coloration to the lighting of the scene that gives it an overtone of sex and blood (and, perhaps oddly, fetal regression) to me. It's not sexual in the way the climax (har) of Commando is, where there's a very clear weapons-as-phalluses substitution, but I think it might be worth citing Cronenberg again, as it's sexual in the way a bad dream might be, all flesh and pain and horror. Though I think it would be a mistake to go too far in making it a Freudian thing.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:10 am 
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Mr Sausage wrote:
There was only one slow motion section in that scene, tho': when Travis backs up the stairs as the handless man pursues, cut to a high-angle shot of the mobster leaving the room and shooting Travis in the arm, prompting Travis to eject (yea, yeah) his hidden gun and shoot the mobster.
Well, I don't think you can just write this section off; it's a large chunk of the shoot-out. And it, appropriately enough, happens as Travis starts approaching Iris's room. There's perhaps a subjectively anticipatory quality here, really right up until the moment that Travis is tackled into the room, at which point I'd agree that the atmosphere dissipates into something ugly and unadorned, corresponding with Travis's own failure to reach some transcendent state of grace/hero's triumph/sexual consummation. (The near-comic shot of Travis fumbling for a suicide gun is probably the clincher here)

I'll agree, this isn't Scorsese doing Commando, or to give a more appropriate point of comparison, a Peckinpah shoot-out. But I also have no doubt he's aware of the very sensual rhythms he (and Schrader) inherited from Peckinpah, even as he's trying to undercut them. That's one of the main aspects of the film (and to many detractors - see Farber/Peterson's "The Power and the Gory" - the main source of contention): the push and pull between disgust and seductive identification with Travis that happens throughout the film.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:08 am 

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I re-watched TD recently quite carefully, and didn't notice any overt prejudice by Travis. The night scene in the convenience store when Travis takes out the would-be burglar is typically given as an example, but here's my take on this: Travis reacted instinctively to the burglar by taking him out & preventing the robbery. Sure, he could have stayed in the back of the store & not gotten involved, but he just reacted without thinking - I'm fairly certain it wouldn't have made a difference what the ethnicity of the would-be burglar had been - Travis would still have done the same thing.

And, note the conversation with Palantine when Travis is asked what bothers him the most, and he responds, "Well, whatever it is, he should clean up this city here...because this city is like an open sewer, it's full of filth and scum. Sometimes I can hardly take it. Whoever becomes the president should just...really clean it up, know what I mean? Sometimes I go out and I smell it. I get headaches, it's so bad. It's like-- They never go away. It's like the president should clean up this whole mess here. He should flush it down the f@*&^%$ toilet." It's fairly evident that Travis is collectively talking about all of the pimps, junkies, criminals, etc. in the city that he sees on a daily basis - he's not pinpointing one ethnic group here in any way, shape, or form.

Also, Travis' internal voice-over monologue: "All the animals come out at night.........sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets." Again, he is collectively lumping all of these criminals, thugs, and street people together...


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:15 am 
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Uh, I dunno if you're at all familiar with the term 'dog whistle'- it's used to describe racist language intended to avoid mentioning race overtly but understood as such to other racists- but 'animals' in particular is a super loaded piece of terminology. When Travis talks about the pimps, junkies, and criminals, he's thinking of black people. He's as paranoiac and terrified of the little black kids jumping around in the fire hydrant as he is of the tall, showy black pimps he eyes in the diner as he is of the guy running down the street screaming "I'll kill her", and the only reason that the movie doesn't end with him murdering a bunch of black people is that Schrader and Scorsese were afraid that it would literally incite race riots. I mean, not to get into the intentional fallacy, but Schrader says so in his commentary track.

Generally speaking, when anybody talks about how much they'd like to exterminate all the 'scum', they're racists, and they're espousing a racist doctrine.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 4:36 pm 

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I guess we can agree to disagree - I don't interpret Travis' comments that way. And, note that I'm not saying that the character isn't racist - what I'm saying is that it's not clearly evident to me in the film. I agree with the below view 100%:

Sloper wrote:
It might be worthwhile asking why Travis becomes a taxi driver, and why, if he hates the New York lowlifes so much, he chooses to do so many night shifts. Remember when Betsy applies the song lyrics to his character - not the best scene in the film I know, but a very telling moment, because it sums up Travis as a 'walking contradiction', at once disgusted by and drawn to all the sick stuff he sees around him.

Basically I would agree with Gregory on the race issue, I don't think those moments of gazing at the black characters are really saying Travis is racist. In fact, surely this was precisely what Scorsese was trying not to say - he made Sport white because it would have made Travis, not the film, seem racist if he had been black. This would have completely alienated Travis's character from the audience, and I think Scorsese wants us to identify with him a lot of the time.

Those slow-motion bits where Travis stares at somebody serve the same purpose as the similar moments in Raging Bull: they make us see things from Travis's point of view, make us empathise with the intense way in which he experiences the world around him, whereas the other characters seem to take it all in their stride.


Adding to the above - if Travis had been an obviously racist character, there is no way the film would have become as popular nor would Travis have become an "anti-hero".

Re: the "scum" reference, I still think he's talking about all of the criminals & addicts that he sees on a daily basis.

Also, remember that the first person that Travis went after in the film was Palantine, a middle-aged white guy who represented "The Establishment". Granted, this was because Travis was directing the anger he felt towards Betsy's rejection on the guy she was working to get elected, but it's still note-worthy.

And, during the conversation with Iris in the coffee shop, Travis expressed extreme hatred/anger towards Sport. As the quote above mentions, Scorsese probably cast Keitel as Sport because the film would have been too incendiary otherwise...That being said, note that Travis would have hated Sport no matter what he looked like.

Travis obviously hates many people, not just those from a certain group...


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 7:50 am 
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Any thoughts on Professor Kolker's commentary track?


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 10:46 am 
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FrauBlucher wrote:
Any thoughts on Professor Kolker's commentary track?


I remember it being pretty good as critical commentary tracks go, but I'm relying on several-year-old memories.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2014 1:56 pm 
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FrauBlucher wrote:
Any thoughts on Professor Kolker's commentary track?


I think his was one of the first commentaries I had seen/heard by a non-director, and I must say I thought he did a brilliant job analysing the scenes and the themes of the film (I assume that's what you'd want from a critical commentary).

I definitely recommend you check it out if you haven't.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2015 2:40 pm 
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ever since i noticed that de niro wears a wig in many scenes, it's really bothered me when watching the film. evidently it was filmed out of sequence, and the hair change is really jarring.
for me, this also brings into question the trivia on imdb that the mohawk was not real.
if he didn't have to shave his head for the mohawk, then why would he need to wear a wig later.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2015 8:55 pm 

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IMHO DeNiro's wig/hairpiece(s) is a lot more noticeable on the Blu; when I first watched the film on DVD years ago I didn't notice this at all, until it was pointed out in one of the "making of" documentaries on the DVD (not sure if this same documentary is on the Blu, since I haven't looked at the special features yet).

Based on the DVD documentary, it's evident that the entire mohawk was a hairpiece/prosthetic to make it look like he had shaved his head & left the mohawk hair "stripe" in the middle; this prosthetic was put over his actual hair. IMHO this was extremely well-done, even by today's standards - and this film is almost 40 years old! The fake "stubble" on the sides of his head looks just like it would if you had shaved your head & it had started to grow back. However, the mohawk "hair" does look a little artificial - in the Blu only, at least IMHO...I never noticed this in the regular DVD....

Note that prior to the mohwak scenes, DeNiro's regular (non-mohawk) hair length seemed to change at least once through the course of the film, despite the fact that the movie was only taking place over several months. So, I suspect he was also wearing another full-hair wig at some point throughout the film...

Not sure of the reasons for the wig prior to the mohawk hairpiece; IIRC, he didn't want to shave his head because, as was mentioned, they filmed out of sequence - also, another reason was probably because he was starring in other films at the time & needed a full head of hair for those roles; I believe he was also filming 1900 at the same time (in Europe)....


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 2:20 am 
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here is what i'm talking about. after a while, it starts going back and forth between the two hair styles for the duration of the film. i didn't notice it for many years. but once i did, i couldn't stop noticing it everytime i watch this movie.

real hair
Image

fake hair
Image


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 9:18 am 
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The Bickle character has three different hairstyles during the course of the film (four if you count the "return to normalcy" during the final scene). Two of these, the punk-style short hair and the punkier mohawk, were done as hairpieces as you pointed out. While the haircuts were originally supposed to be seen as a progression (longer hair, shorter hair, mohawk), Scorsese altered the chronology of the film in editing. The result was a couple of the longer-hair scenes (such as the famous "You talkin' to me?" mirror confrontation) were placed later in the film after scenes where Bickle sported shorter hair. This draws attention to the short-hair wig in a way that would have been less noticeable if Scorsese had retained the chronology as scripted. As distracting as this might be once you become aware of it, I have to think Scorsese was correct to re-sequence the film since the pacing and build-up to the foiled political assassination plays beautifully.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 3:56 pm 

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Thanks for the clarification re: the Travis Bickle wig(s) in TD. Honestly, I did not notice the difference in hair length re: the non-mohawk hair prior to reading comments on this online. IMHO it's not that noticeable unless you're looking for it; and, it doesn't throw me off nor take me out of the film. An in-movie explanation could be that the shorter-looking hair is matted/dirty because he hasn't washed it, and therefore doesn't look as long....if you don't look too closely or pay that much attention...It's not like the Bickle character went from having a short punk haircut to long hippie-hair (i.e., the Harvey Keitel character in TD) in the next scene...

And, again, re: the mohawk, this prosthetic is a very impressive creation - especially when you realize that this was created circa 1975....It's interesting that Scorsese chose the Mohawk as the hairstyle Bickle adopted right before going on his rampage....IIRC punk rock mohawk hairstyles didn't really get popular until the late 1970's & into the '80's..I was in high school in the mid-late '80's, and remember seeing some kids with mohawks at the time...so, I think the mohawk that Bickle had in a 1976 film was quite edgy & almost prophetic...


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2015 9:35 pm 

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Re: the films that may (the operative word being "may", not "did") have influenced Taxi Driver, IMHO two stand out - note I have read online where these are mentioned in connection with TD, though I'm not sure if Scorsese/Schrader themselves have actually referred to these as specifically influencing the film:

The Searchers (John Ford, 1956): Saw this for the first time last week; iconic & excellent John Wayne western - the basic storyline involves Wayne & a group of others forming a rescue party to go after a young frontier girl who has been kidnapped by Indians. The search goes on for at least 2-3 years (if not longer), through harsh territory. Great film, though, to be honest, I don't really see that much of a connection to TD here - other than:

-The John Wayne character is something of a loner; however, he is always surrounded by others in the film (though he doesn't like having companions); and, he does not appear to be sociopathic, like TB in TD.

-The biggest connection is the "search" for the young girl who has been kidnapped, which somewhat brings to mind the "rescue" of the Jodie Foster character at the end of TD. However, IMHO this connection is tenuous at best - that being said, it is still there.

However, the film that definitely reminded me of TD was:

Blast of Silence (Allen Baron, 1962). IMHO this is an underrated, b&w noir masterpiece. Excellent film, which focuses on a lone hitman who travels to NYC during the Christmas holidays to perform a "job".

He is subsequently rejected by a woman, and things go downhill from there. This definitely reminded me quite a bit of TD, re: the lone sociopath who has problems forming any kind of personal connection with anyone, the NYC setting, etc.

There is also second-person narration in BOS which somewhat delves in the main character's psyche - this brings to mind the first-person narration by TB in TD...


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2015 11:47 am 
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I have no idea if Schrader or Scorsese saw it (although I suspect they did at some point), but Youssef Chahine's CAIRO STATION (1958) seems like a precursor in the way it tells the story from the point-of-view of a troubled, delusional young man who becomes obsessed with a woman he can't have.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2015 12:46 pm 
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Well, The Searchers is definitely a key influence (as it was on most of the Movie Brats - see also Close Encounters and Hardcore). IIRC, both Schrader and Scorsese refer to the sequence with Keitel and Foster as the Scar Sequence, as such a sequence is notable by its absence in The Searchers.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2015 4:06 pm 
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Natalie Wood's initial resistance to being rescued in The Searchers is also paralleled by Foster's resistance in Taxi Driver.

Another film that seems seems to be echoed in Taxi Driver (though I've never heard Scorsese or Schrader mention it as an influence) is The Sniper. Like Travis Bickle, the protagonist of this film noir is also paranoid and reclusive. More importantly, his violent rage comes about after being rejected by the woman he desires, which he attributes to a larger societal evil.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 10:59 pm 

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OK - I stand corrected; Thanks everyone. It sounds like The Searchers was more of an influence on TD than I thought - at least when it came specifically to the Jodie Foster character & how she wanted to stay with her captor Sport...which I can now see is a parallel to how Natalie Wood's character wanted to initially stay with her captor Scar in The Searchers...

Feego wrote:
Another film that seems seems to be echoed in Taxi Driver (though I've never heard Scorsese or Schrader mention it as an influence) is The Sniper. Like Travis Bickle, the protagonist of this film noir is also paranoid and reclusive. More importantly, his violent rage comes about after being rejected by the woman he desires, which he attributes to a larger societal evil.


Thanks very much for the recommendation re: The Sniper (1952). I've never heard of the film before your post - however, I just looked this up & it sounds excellent- I'm a huge b&w 1940's-1960's film noir fan, so I'm fairly certain I'll like this - especially since the storyline is similar to TD. Unfortunately, I can't find a place that's selling this movie by itself (it may not be available on it's own) - however, Amazon is selling this in a package with four other b&w noir films for $50. This is a little rich for my blood, especially considering these are regular DVDs, not Blu's. May still get this set, but I would have strongly preferred a stand-alone release.

Roger Ryan wrote:
I have no idea if Schrader or Scorsese saw it (although I suspect they did at some point), but Youssef Chahine's CAIRO STATION (1958) seems like a precursor in the way it tells the story from the point-of-view of a troubled, delusional young man who becomes obsessed with a woman he can't have.


Wow - this is yet another film I've never heard of, and I consider myself a film aficionado. In any case, sounds interesting as well. Looked this up, and it also seems to be tough to get ahold of.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:54 pm 

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Cairo Station is amazing, one of my favorite films. I doubt it's an influence, but The Sniper (also one of my faves) definitely is. IIRC, Scorsese even did an intro on the DVD.


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