Friday, July 14, 2006

30 years on and still a classic....

Today marks the 30th anniversary re-release of director Martin Scorsese's cult classic Taxi Driver. It explores the mentally unstable, lonely, Vietnam war Veteran cab driver Travis Bickle (De Niro) as he becomes obsessed with office worker (Cybill Shepherd) and tries to rescue 12-year old prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster) from her pimp (Harvey Keitel). Foster who had previously worked for Scorsese on Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), underwent psychological tests to see if she could cope with being in the film. The film is accompanied by a memorable sleazy saxophone score by Bernard Herrmann who also provided the music for Kill Bill Vol 1, Psycho and Vertigo which stays in my mind for days after I've watched it.

Paul Schrader the scriptwriter was interviewed in London recently and talked about how he was 26 and penniless when he wrote the script. "At the time I wrote it, I was in a rather low and bad place," Schrader says. "I had broken with Pauline [Kael], I had broken with my wife, I had broken with the woman I left my wife for, I had broken with the American Film Institute and I was in debt." Amazing how out of such a depressed mind, came something so brilliant, so genius.

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The film caused controversy when on March 30 1981, John Hinckley Jr, who had become obsessed with the film and had been stalking Foster, attempted to assassinate US president Ronald Reagan in a bid to impress her. The day Reagan was actually shot, Schrader, Scorsese and De Niro were questioned by the FBI. Schrader admits to lying to them as he had asked his secretary to throw away a letter he had previously received from Hinkley asking if he could meet Foster.

Although the film was nominated for four Academy Awards nominations (without recognition for director Scorsese, screenwriter Paul Schrader, or cinematographer Michael Chapman), Best Picture, Best Actor (Robert De Niro), Best Supporting Actress (Jodie Foster), and Best Original Score (Bernard Herrmann) - all were unrewarded. Even if it didn't impress the judges, it will always be an Oscar winner in my mind.


Red said...

I didn't know that Schrader had received a letter from Hinckley... But even so, should he have screened every letter from every "fan" (deranged or otherwise) who wanted to meet the stars of the film, on the off chance that one of them might end up trying to kill Reagan?

As for the Academy Awards... I guess they were too busy handing out the Best Film Oscar to... erm... Rocky.

St Jude said...

You can always tell the merit of a film when it can still stand the test of time and thrill new audiences.

a.c.t said...

Red, unbvelievable isn't it? Scorsese has never even won an Oscar to this day, it make you wonder about these judges. It would be a different story if the public had their say.
stjude, most of the greatest films are the oldest. Unfortunately these days, a lot of films just copy the format of previous ones. Nothing seems to be original anymore.

* (asterisk) said...

One of my fave films. Used to watch it when depressed, so I could think at least things weren't that bad. Haven't watched it for years now, so that's good!

martinobhoy said...


Another Scorcese film not to win the Oscar that leaves you wondering why. Raging Bull was another and dont get me started on Dances With Wolves beating Goodfellas. I can rant about that decision for hours (and have!)

the cappuccino kid said...

not sucking up to media whores and not conforming to a certain type is probably the reason he has no oscars.
lets face it, it's not like he makes spielberg type "lets make ourselves feel better" movies.
and i for one think he is better for it.

a.c.t said...

Martino, Dances with Wolves!! What a flipping joke. The fact is, these films are too violent for these stiffs. Raging Bull is one of my favourites of all time, the directing and acting is phenomenal, along with Goodfellas. Dances with Wolves, Kevin Costner -pah!
C.Kid, imagine the effect it would have on all the law-abiding families and their little kiddies if a vomit inducing Spielberg didn't win the Oscars every year.

the cappuccino kid said...

ah, goodfellas.
was on tcm last night. watched it and thought of you!
had to show vic your profile pic to explain why!
can you believe she had never seen it.
she gave up half way through and i had to explain what happened.
well it was 1am!

Susan in Italy said...

Hiya a.c.t. and everybody, I'm wondering if any of you can answer a question for me. I have always been under the impression (and I'm the only one I know who thinks this) that the final scenes of Taxi Driver, where DeNiro's character gets accolades for his violent rescue of Foster's character were some sort of fantasy-dream sequence, true only in the character's mind. Can anybody agree with this or am I crazy?
P.S. Long ago, when "Driving Miss Daisy" won out over "Do the Right Thing" I stopped paying attention to the Oscars. If we all ignore them, maybe they'll go away.

a.c.t said...

Cap kid, she should def try and watch it again through to the end, maybe in the afternoon next time;-). It is a long film and you need lots of stamina.
Susan, very good point, I'm not going to bother any more with the Oscars, lets all boycott it. I'd never thought about that in Taxi Driver, maybe you're right. 'Do the right thing is another one of my favourites too.

the cappuccino kid said...

trouble is, she stuggles to keep up with eastenders, so a three hour film, with more than two story lines? no chance.
only if they re-made it as a chick flick ala bridgette jones, then she might stand a chance.
hell, she's never seen quadrophenia all the way through. it's a wonder i am still with her!

Martha Elaine Belden said...

Really want to see this... thanks for the reminder :)

Great review, by the way. I already wanted to see it... now I can't wait!

a.c.t said...

Cap Kid, remember opposites attract. But you should still tie her down to a chair to make her watch Goodfellas. And as for preventing her eyes from closing, remember the scene in A Clockwork Orange when he has to wear the eye clamps? ;-)
Thanks Martha, you'll enjoy it.

the cappuccino kid said...

ooh, now that seems like a good idea. you reckon we can re-enact the other bit from a clocwork orange too? anyone know where i can get a four foot long phallic type sculpture?
no, forget that. i will make the most of her being tied to the chair.
anything with weller/scooters
all three godfathers, and the 4 hour bonus disc
kill bill 1 & 2
alfie, old and new
the italian job
sexy beast (ok anything with ray winstone)
asterix films
...that'll do for starters.

Aidan said...

Soup-herb stuff, one of my favourite films and one which really can be watched and enjoyed over and over. Bernard Herrman actually keeled over and died after just finishing the final scoring for the movie. I usually hate the saxophone, the devil's own instrument, but here it just works perfectly - instantly evocative of the film, New York, or at least what should be a classic New Yawk film-y feel...

Jackson Browne's "Late For The Sky", also on the soundtrack, is also beautiful.

a.c.t said...

Really, I didn't know that. I was thinking if I was to choose a topic for Mastermind I'd chose this film, but I wouldn't do that well obviously by not knowing info like that. Well, as for the sax being the devil's instrument, I'm not so sure I's agree. What about The Waterboys 'Old England'? Surely you can't deny it's excellence?