Taxi Driver is one of those films that consistently makes those ‘best of all time’ lists, that is repeatedly hailed as a era-defining masterpiece, and held up as the best work of both its star, Robert De Niro, and its director, Martin Scorsese – neither of whom have particularly shabby resumes. Basically, it’s a film that comes with baggage and expectations. But it only takes a few seconds to remember what all of the fuss is about. The first notes of Bernard Herrmann’s (Citizen Kane, Psycho) booming score coupled with that swooping shot of the yellow taxicab set against the foggy Manhattan streets sets the tone for one of the greatest American movies ever made.
Scorsese – as he would go on to do repeatedly throughout his career – places us with an violent, antisocial protagonist and forces us to reckon with the world he inhabits. The anger and darkness inside of Travis Bickle (De Niro) is matched by the hellish cityscapes conjured by cinematographer Michael Chapman (Raging Bull, The Last Detail). The film thrives on the clashing textures of its vision; grinding bleak, yet beautiful poetry from the garbage, racism, misogyny and death found in both the New York streets and Bickle.