Taxi Driver is a quintessential Scorsese-picture, favorably compared to the debut films like Boxcar Bertha. The film jump-starts the 70 and 80s Scorsese-masterpiece drive, a force of inertial filmmaking creativity.
The film explores the sticky mind and mannerisms of Vietnam veteran Travis Brickle, who has taken up occupation as a taxi-driver because of his pestilent insomnia. The screenwriter, Paul Schrader, says that he composed the screenplay in mind of Dostoevsky’s existential book, ‘Notes from the Underground’ which shapes rightly to the heavy-theme of society isolation. Taxi Driver introduces and provokes the now oft-used satirical theme of the pick-and-choose nature of law enforcement and punishment (Pop-culture know-it all’s may think this idea familiar from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, where the Joker tells Harvey Dent about how society works according to ‘plan’). The expected is of far more ease than the unexpected, as any anxious person can attest to.
Nearing the third act, Travis decides as clear as a meth-head to kill the governor-elect, but after a shady getaway on his first attempt, he quickly crosses over to his preferred righteous-path, killing a handful of pimps in hope of brightening the life of a young prostitute they vendor. The girl’s name is Iris, and at only fourteen years, you can imagine her iris-flower growing amongst the dirt and muck that Travis so willingly describes for us. But how much, we think, will this help? Or will Iris end up needing to turn towards more severe acts for money as consequence? Rest assured Travis receives a letter from her parents, thanking him for helping return her to them; whether the aftermath is a dream or real-time recuperation, Scorsese does not, and refuses to tell.
Taxi Driver is a benchmark in character study. If these studies are done well, the looking glass should be uniform and unmoving from the character, not flopping once or twice to another character’s perspective for easy dramatic irony. This perspective dials our heads into conforming to the ticks and habits of the narrator we so intimately let ourselves into. Travis, I think, although disastrous and a reflection of real and dangerous people, romanticizes the involuntary hate for culture-hounds and rules. He pouts blasphemy throughout of and against the junk around him, yet goes to the same movies they do, an undividable paradigm of enjoyment or understanding.
There are many clever film-devices Scorsese uses to tell the narrative, like the use of the Taxi’s front-window and street-smog to resemble Travis’ clouded view of the city. They are understood because and only because of the tone and theme that matches them; the soundtrack, the attitude, etc. That’s Scorsese. Later in the filmography, the great duo of Schrader and Scorsese present themselves triumphantly again in the first year of the 80s with ‘Raging Bull’.