Taxi Driver : The Movie

I saw the movie Taxi Driver yesterday, and again today morning. Since there has been a long time since the movie was released, I am sure there must have been hundreds of reviews so there is no point in having a review again. I'd just like to say my views about some things in the movie.

A funny thing before I start. Know what Robert Di Niro and Shammi Kapoor have in common. For both of them, I watched movies in which they are older first. This made it very difficult for me to picture them young, even when I was watching this movie. Di Niro is very young here (he plays a 26 year old guy) and still he seemed very mature to me. Not that he planned it that way, just that when I see that face, I see an old experienced man, not a young directionless taxi driver.

Also, I finally realised from where Mahesh Bhatt got the story idea for Sadak ;)

The movie is very slow, dull and dark. And the director makes no excuses for that, it is meant to be this way. It is meant to showcase bad times in a city, the scum of a city, the scum of those times. But more than anything, it is meant to showcase the impact of loneliness and boredom. The life of Mr Travis (Di Niro) is anything but fun. It is woven together by a series of boring and uninteresting incidents (some of them are so boring they topple over to being funny). He is a lonely guy, he doesn't have much to do. He doesn't have anybody to go home to. He has no idea how to behave with women (yeah he did fine till he was talking, but then he took her to see that movie). All in all, not a life you'd be lining up to exchange, and he realises that. So he tries to make something of it. Do something that will get him noticed. If it means rescuing a prostitute who does not want to be rescued, so be it. If it means shooting a presidential candidate for no apparent reason, so be it. This gives his life a purpose, something for which he can prepare hard for days. Something to think about as he falls asleep (that almost never happens in the movie). This purpose actually makes his life interesting and bearable (for himself and for viewers like my roomie, who loved the "You talking to me" scene like anything).

I have never seen loneliness captured on screen in such a way that I'd sit through it, and as far as I am concerned that is saying a lot. I hate bore slow and arty types of movies, I do not want movies that are made just for awards. And I don't think this one was one of them (even though I guess it would have won loads of them). This movie showed us what lonely and alone actually is. There was no song used by the director to make the meaning of this loneliness clearer, just music. And I think that was better since that made everybody have his own interpretation of the loneliness of Travis, words would have limited the imagination of viewers (though I am not sure if that was the intention). This was a guy who had nothing to do, literally. So what does he do, he tries to do something which would appear unthinkable otherwise, but seems realistic since we know how aimless his life actually is.

The actors were all generally good. Don't know why, but I did not have any sympathy for the child prostitute. And Jodie Foster did make her appear very real (based on my limited knowledge of how prostitutes behave). Di Niro was very good, which is something you will realise more and more in multiple viewings. I really liked the guy who played Betsy's colleague (forgetting his name). I have seen so many guys like that and he portrayed that in a very life like manner.

I am used to watching DVDs with headphones on and so I am able to take in all the sounds. And this is one of those movies where you want that to happen. This is a movie where if it's playing in a hall you'd want everyone to shut up.

I'd love to go on and on but I guess you get the point, I liked the movie and I'd recommend it to you. But not when you are looking for an fast entertainer. Have a look at this when you want to give your mind a workout.

For those who have not seen the movie yet, the following para may have a spoiler :)

About the end, I do not believe that Travis lived to witness all that new found glory. I don't even think there was any glory. It was just a dying man's fantasy which helped him die happily. There are just too many things to suggest he would have been able to continue with normal life if he were alive. He'd have to explain the multiple guns, all the killings (one killing was of a customer who was not a hardcore criminal) and also possibly his attempt on the life of the candidate. To be able to get through all that is only in the reach of an Indian hero, it is way beyond Travis :)