I love film, and am naturally drawn to romance, action, sci-fi and there is always time for the “who done it” mystery. Now I also love musicals, but for me they are best seen in their original genre, live on stage. So how does the movie “Taxi Driver” fit into this repartee? Answer, it does not. This movie is not supposed to work for me, even given all the rave reviews. I am uncomfortable with looking or delving into the ugly places and spaces of our society. While harder to do in the year 2016, I continue to never ever take away my rose color glasses, at least not too quickly.
But more seriously after the two hours or so time spent in the mind of Travis Bickle, the protagonist, a crazy man, I came away from this movie with a sense of reverence for the art form that is film. The visually laid out symbolism explaining the environment and mind of the lead character held a deeper impact for me then dialogue alone was able to reveal. And although I am highly adverse to films subjugated to dark violence and racism I did get caught up in the vehicle, the conduit use of film to tell this story is art at its’ finest.
The film takes on complexly dark topics including loneliness, violence, depression, prostitution, pornography to a lesser extent, and racism.
One key characteristic of Travis [Robert Di Nero] was his deep racist attitude toward black people. While he never verbally expressed his aversion to the resident population of Harlem back in the late ‘60s, the character’s facial expression and body tensions projected a deadly hatred for blacks, my people. And given that “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (whose leading characters are NYC and Holly Golightly) is one of my all time favorite movies, how did I come to appreciate Travis Bickle living in the same city, yet his space was the antithesis of Ms. Golightly’s? This movie was not suppose to work for me. But having seen it just this week from beginning to end, it did work. And maybe it did not work back when because I was this 1960’s young naively vulnerable woman. However I’m older now and in today’s world of cable TV, shock for shock value reality TV, cellphones, video in real-time of dehumanization and murder of black men, today I am it seems able to watch this movie I once called abhorrent and to understand what it was attempting.
It has taken decades to finally sit through the movie and alas I understand and agree this movie was then and remains to this day a masterpiece of film. This movie took me out of my comfort zone and kept me suspended there long after it ended, trying to understand the captivation. Turns out this movie is cinematic genius, who knew.