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Martin Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER and Me

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Samarov
1448 Rider
 Posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Scorsese's Taxi Driver

This is an excerpt from Where To?

When I began driving a cab in fall of 1993, Taxi Driver provided my first frame of reference. As I drove through steam coming up from manhole covers, the image of Travis Bickle’s hulking Marathon doing the same in the movie’s first shot would start in my head, Bernard Herrmann’s score surging as if out of nowhere to follow my taxi down the nighttime streets. When smartass college kids asked if my job was like the show, Taxi, my comeback was always, “No, it's more like the movie,Taxi Driver.” They’d either laugh nervously or get real quiet after that. But it wasn’t Bickle’s need to cleanse the world through biblical bloodletting that attracted me; it was that tank of a car rolling through the city. A cab driver sees the ugly, the beautiful, and the just plain inexplicable as few others can. Being a passing presence in dozens of lives a day leaves its mark. I took Bickle’s, “I go anywhere, anytime,” as a modus operandi.

Oftentimes, when I say I'm inspired by the film, people get a worried look. Read literally, of course, what Bickle does is insane, but no one should take it as a call to action (unless your plan is to kill Ronald Reagan to prove your love for Jodie Foster, of course). After seeing the movie again recently with a bunch of friends, a spirited debate continued all the way to the bar. The question: Is Bickle just crazy? One of the guys in particular insisted that no sane person would ever take a girl to a porn theater on a first date and think it was OK. He couldn’t accept much of the plot as believable in any way. My take has always been that the ch…

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Scorsese's Taxi Driver

This is an excerpt from Where To?

When I began driving a cab in fall of 1993, Taxi Driver provided my first frame of reference. As I drove through steam coming up from manhole covers, the image of Travis Bickle’s hulking Marathon doing the same in the movie’s first shot would start in my head, Bernard Herrmann’s score surging as if out of nowhere to follow my taxi down the nighttime streets. When smartass college kids asked if my job was like the show, Taxi, my comeback was always, “No, it's more like the movie,Taxi Driver.” They’d either laugh nervously or get real quiet after that. But it wasn’t Bickle’s need to cleanse the world through biblical bloodletting that attracted me; it was that tank of a car rolling through the city. A cab driver sees the ugly, the beautiful, and the just plain inexplicable as few others can. Being a passing presence in dozens of lives a day leaves its mark. I took Bickle’s, “I go anywhere, anytime,” as a modus operandi.

Oftentimes, when I say I'm inspired by the film, people get a worried look. Read literally, of course, what Bickle does is insane, but no one should take it as a call to action (unless your plan is to kill Ronald Reagan to prove your love for Jodie Foster, of course). After seeing the movie again recently with a bunch of friends, a spirited debate continued all the way to the bar. The question: Is Bickle just crazy? One of the guys in particular insisted that no sane person would ever take a girl to a porn theater on a first date and think it was OK. He couldn’t accept much of the plot as believable in any way. My take has always been that the character isn’t just some guy and the story’s not a slice of life. This is a man who talks about a rain coming and washing the streets clean of scum, of his life just needing a sense of a place to go. He’s trying to save us all. Given that director Martin Scorsese trained for the priesthood and screenwriter Paul Schrader was brought up in a Calvinist household, it’s no surprise that they’d make a movie about a fallen angel or holy fool. He sees the world as ugly and wants to make it beautiful. He never seems to get anyone’s jokes, he doesn’t connect with anyone else. “I'm God's lonely man,” he says. Betsy’s the Madonna figure and Iris is the whore; these and other characters are archetypes rather than real people. I never identified with Bickle, apart from sometimes sharing his loneliness.

A man alone, hurtling through nighttime streets in a taxi, all kinds of humanity passing past the 7 windshield; now that I’m familiar with. There’s a scene where a passenger (played by Scorsese) describes in detail how he’s going to murder his philandering wife. I had a drunk tell me once that he had no money for the fare and that he was going to go into the house and kill his wife. He wanted to know what was I gonna do about it? I told him to do what he wanted but to get out of my cab, he’d wasted enough of my time. There’s often no proper way to react when a stranger unburdens himself in this way. Taxi Driver gets the odd, fragmentary relationship between driver and passenger just right.

I got to know Boston and then Chicago the way Bickle got to know New York. I’ve never felt the need to save a soul, much less all our souls, but I wouldn’t have gotten behind the wheel without his example. The job puts you at a remove from others and only certain types of people appreciate that sort of isolation. It always fit me to a T. At the end of the film, after the massacre and after he’s hailed as a hero, Bickle’s back in the cab, outside a hotel, waiting for a fare. Whatever happens to a cab driver, sooner or later it’s always back to that wait, sitting and hoping for that fare that will take him away.

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Comments

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    Bigfrank
    447 Rider Driver Driver
     4 years ago

    I drove a hack in NYC in 1984 and those were the good old days of making foreigners at JFK stand on a scale and charging them per pound. Charging double the meter to go out of MANHATTAN with a fast meter. Now look at what we have, all young jerk offs brainwashed by their iPhone and thinking GPS is Jesus.