To Be The Taxi Driver

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Right, breath in and out……..Let’s go. Taxi Driver is a flick that can not be written about lightly. It is in fact damn right hard to discuss due to it’s huge success, impressive credentials and master class method acting. So I shall take it from the top. Directed by the great Martin Scorsese and distributed by Columbia pictures in 1976, Taxi Driver has been quoted by Forbes as “one of the greatest films of all time”. The film boasts four Academy Award nominations including best picture, obtaining the Palme d’Ore at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival and rated 31 as the greatest films ever made by Sight and Sound. But what is it about this psychological thriller/drama/film-noir masterpiece that has made it so special? Sit back and read on my friends as I will do my best to explain.

The film follows Travis Bickle (De Niro), a Vietnam veteran trying to make an honest living in the big city. To grasp the mirage that is honest living in 1970’s New York Travis decides to drive a cab, however with this comes serious implications…

1. He meet’s a lot of different people

2. He see’s a lot of different places

3. He hears a lot of things

These three points expose Travis to the reality that is a progressive and changing city. Socially, culturally and physically New York city is not a place for a fragile minded Vietnam Veteran. As the stress and horror of what Travis describes to  Senator Charles Palantine (to whom ends up in the back of his cab) as “an open sewer” begin to mount, Travis’s thought on the city and what type of action he should take begin to turn violent. It would seem that action has to be taken into his own hands to rectify the problems with New York.

But what are these problems? Well after watching the film I picked out what I refer to as the three P’S. Pimps, Pushers and prostitutes ( a Pusher is a drug dealer to you and I). It is when Travis identifies the three P’s as being the central issue with the city the audience receive a subtle treat. On one of his night shifts he is told to drive to an apartment block with a rather disgruntled, erratic and irritated man…The man is Scorsese himself appearing in his film to amplify the strain of New York life and to highlight how violence and destruction is not only taking its toll on Travis’s psyche, but to potentially hundreds if not thousands of other New Yorkers as well, check out Scorsese scene below.

Now the interesting part in the scene is what Scorsese has to say, sure his wife is having an affair, I think any warm blooded male would feel some hostilities towards that. It is the fact that his pain is heightened because his wife is, how he puts it “Fucking a nigger”. This once again points out the cultural and social changes happening in America that not only Travis is finding difficult to deal with but many others as well.

Travis purchases a gun, he actually purchases a few guns, a big fuck off gun and a few other hand guns from a shady bloke in a crappy hotel room. He begins to make contraptions to conceal the guns in which the famous, improvised ‘are you talking to me’? scene was created.

Now I am not going to go on and on (for much longer anyway) as I do not want to give away the ending for those who have not seen the film. But I must leave you with this. See this film! See it right now because it is truly a masterpiece of cinema that will leave you thinking long and hard about the society we live in and where we fit in to that enormous jigsaw puzzle. I rate the film as a full blown 10/10 as for me everything drom the acting, lighting, scenery, music, characters, language, violence, story etc etc etc is perfect! I now leave you with an interesting 1940’s style theme tune from the film.

Trivia

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Francis Peppett Guest Review – Moon

From the mind of Zowie Bowie (AKA Duncan Jones), Moon (that was shot in just 33 days and on a comparatively small budget) is a refreshingly brilliant take on the now often insipid Sci-fi genre. Jones’s first feature film sidesteps the usual smattering of CGI and special effects so commonplace in the genre, and instead calls upon an enigmatic performance by Sam Rockwell to generate a haunting, visceral narrative that will engage the viewer from start to finish.

 

Moon is set in a future-world, where the worries of peak-oil and fossil fuel dependency are all but forgotten, as a corporation named ‘Lunar-Industries’ have established a ‘moon-mine’, which harvests some sort of super-fuel from the Moons surface and blasts it back to the Earth. The sole resident of this ‘moon-mine’ is Sam Bell (Rockwell), who has is responsible for seemingly mundane daily maintenance tasks. When hes not working he keeps himself busy by exercising on his running machine, eating microwave meals and the carefully constructing a model village. We join Bell towards the end of his three year placement at the lunar station, and his loneliness is instantly palpable, emphasised by his reaction to the video messages sent to him of his wife Tess and daughter Eve. Bell’s sole companion is GERTY (voiced with a brilliantly banal tone that only Kevin Spacey can muster), a piece of artificial intelligence that aids Bell in his daily tasks but also acts as a confidant of sorts to a man who’s psyche and physical health is evidently disintegrating.

 

Once we are established in this desolate lunar landscape, the narrative picks up pace, as Bell, out in a big wheeled truck on some sort of moon-maintenance task, is haunted by visions, or hallucinations of a seemingly unknown woman. After this, we are snapped back to the lunar base infirmary, with Bell apparently showing signs of injury after his excursion. This is where reality starts to distort; the film submerges itself into a hazy focus, where a new character engages and often befuddles the viewer as it begins to dissect the idea of identity, and how such ideas relate to the big, and often bad world we live in. The film heavily relies on Rockwell to convey the emptiness of a lunar world, and he does so with aplomb, exuding a depth of character that generates such a deep sense of empathy for a man who increasingly realises how little he knows about himself. The harsh, industrial look of Bell’s quarters and workplace (in context to the slick, neon saturated sets of other such environments in the genre) help convey the harsh reality of the isolation he lives in. Whilst it may be set on a rock thousands of miles away from home, it emphasise that once cut adrift from those we love, life has little semblance or meaning, in a way Bell is just a GERTY in human form. In addition, it certainly doesn’t hurt when you get Hans Zimmer to write the musical score, as his atmospheric grandiose compositions help raise the cinematic experience.

 

As the narrative begins to unravel, in a murky trail of twists and turns that keeps the viewer guessing till its climactic reveal, we rarely leave Bell’s lunar base. As mentioned earlier, this film has no need for expansive landscapes, titanic fight scenes, or dazzling CGI; its focus on the human psyche is what we are really drawn too. instead of traipsing through the moons cratered surface, we explore the mind of Sam Bell, or at least what we believe to be so. As the film is brought to a close, we witness a small victory for Bell, who’s existential journey through the ideas of self gives the viewer plenty to ponder about when the credits start to role.

 

Moon marks a scintillating debut for the fledgling Duncan Jones, who has gone onto to make the favourably reviewed Source Code, and has just been announced as the director of a Warcraft film adaptation (although this choice does bring a certain sense of trepidation). Rockwell’s performance is one not to be missed, and actually confirmed my belief he is often overlooked as one of the best actors of his generation. I hope you’ve enjoyed my guest spot on 3 wise men, I hope to be back soon…Rutdog out.