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Author Topic: Rate The Last Movie You Saw  (Read 1769474 times)
dave jenkins
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« Reply #12045 on: June 03, 2013, 12:07:00 PM »

What strikes a deep chord for many people (consciously or not) in Taxi Driver not only loneliness but also existentialist themes, shown in a very pragmatical light (who am I? How to be someone? Am I defined by what I do or by who I am?). If these themes (or the way they're used here) don't ring a bell for you, then you won't see the film as what you call a "classic".
Using a psycho to explore these themes isn't much use, though, is it? Travis is both demented and dangerous, and whatever "truths" he comes up with aren't going to be of much help to (presumably) sane people like us. Yeah, we can still ponder these issues on our own--but we don't need Travis's example as a jumping off point. I mean, we already have Camus's The Stranger, what more do we need?

Btw, a lot of people don't seem to understand the picture. The point of the bloodbath followed by the community's adulation is that it's all down to chance. Travis happens to kill the right people in the right circumstances, and so is honored for it. But obviously things could have been different--as we see in his choice for his original target (the political candidate). If he'd shot the politician he would have been a pariah. But circumstances prevented that, so Travis went for target #2 and got lucky. Scorsese makes it clear we haven't heard the last of Travis, though. As he drops Betsy off at the end of picture and starts to drive away, he sees something in his rearview mirror to which he reacts. As Scorsese informed us on the old Criterion LD commentary track, he was at pains to get Herrmann to put a sting on the audio track at just that moment. According to Marty, Travis the human timebomb has just been re-set and has resumed ticking. The film ends on a note of coming apocalypse. Maybe Schrader/Scorsese were also suggesting that there are many Travises out there, spawn of a rotten society about to turn on itself. Well, it was 1976, after all, when New York was very different, before Times Square had been Disney-fied.

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« Reply #12046 on: June 03, 2013, 12:48:02 PM »



Btw, a lot of people don't seem to understand the picture. The point of the bloodbath followed by the community's adulation is that it's all down to chance. Travis happens to kill the right people in the right circumstances, and so is honored for it. But obviously things could have been different--as we see in his choice for his original target (the political candidate). If he'd shot the politician he would have been a pariah. But circumstances prevented that, so Travis went for target #2 and got lucky. Scorsese makes it clear we haven't heard the last of Travis, though. As he drops Betsy off at the end of picture and starts to drive away, he sees something in his rearview mirror to which he reacts. As Scorsese informed us on the old Criterion LD commentary track, he was at pains to get Herrmann to put a sting on the audio track at just that moment. According to Marty, Travis the human timebomb has just been re-set and has resumed ticking. The film ends on a note of coming apocalypse. Maybe Schrader/Scorsese were also suggesting that there are many Travises out there, spawn of a rotten society about to turn on itself. Well, it was 1976, after all, when New York was very different, before Times Square had been Disney-fied.

do you think that final shot was Scorsese setting us up for a possible sequel?

btw, I've I've heard people argue that Travis dies in the shootout; the rest of the movie is his dying thoughts. (When he picks up Betsy in the cab, I think you can see a scar on the left side of his neck where he was shot - which would indicate that perhaps it is literal - but it is not very clear, as Travis is only shot from head-on in that scene).
My problem with the "dying thoughts" interpretation is that it does not explain that final shot. Even if he is indeed fantasizing, as he is dying, about being a hero and Betsy respecting him, that wouldn't explain why he would be suddenly reacting to that thing in the mirror. I think it's all literal.

btw, I believe that Scoreses commentary you mention is on the blu ray. I didn't listen to any of the commentaries, but I saw on the menu that the blu ray offers like 3 or 4 commentaries, including one that is called "original commentary by Scorsese" or something like that

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« Reply #12047 on: June 03, 2013, 01:26:56 PM »

Using a psycho to explore these themes isn't much use, though, is it?

Yes it is. It's even pretty smart. And don't forget that Travis is nothing more than a Vietnam vet version of Paul Schrader, with slightly less self control.

Travis is both demented and dangerous, and whatever "truths" he comes up with aren't going to be of much help to (presumably) sane people like us.

He doesn't find out much. We could learn some truths watching him, but I don't think it's a movie with a really deep message. It's more about depicting a particular state of mind and what happens when you strech these questions.

Yeah, we can still ponder these issues on our own--but we don't need Travis's example as a jumping off point. I mean, we already have Camus's The Stranger, what more do we need?

I (really) love Camus, but he's no Dosto´evski: he's not very exhaustive. He wrote short and smart books, but he never did the definitive work on a topic (even if such an achievement was reachable by a human being). Moreover, The Stranger's murder happens completely out of the blue. Travis' actions and trials are all planned in advance. So we're not talking about the same thing.

Btw, a lot of people don't seem to understand the picture. The point of the bloodbath followed by the community's adulation is that it's all down to chance. Travis happens to kill the right people in the right circumstances, and so is honored for it. But obviously things could have been different--as we see in his choice for his original target (the political candidate). If he'd shot the politician he would have been a pariah. But circumstances prevented that, so Travis went for target #2 and got lucky. Scorsese makes it clear we haven't heard the last of Travis, though. As he drops Betsy off at the end of picture and starts to drive away, he sees something in his rearview mirror to which he reacts. As Scorsese informed us on the old Criterion LD commentary track, he was at pains to get Herrmann to put a sting on the audio track at just that moment.

Yep, that's what I mean by "Am I defined by what I do or by who I am?"
The Sartrian answer is "by what I do", because nobody cares about your potential. It has no effect on the world. What you do, whatever the reasons are (will, luck, love, money, hard work...) has real consequences. The regular religious answer is "who I am", because that's the only consequence that matters. The Scorsese answer is, as far as I (and you I guess) understand is: "who I am", because sooner or later, that's what I will do.

According to Marty, Travis the human timebomb has just been re-set and has resumed ticking. The film ends on a note of coming apocalypse. Maybe Schrader/Scorsese were also suggesting that there are many Travises out there, spawn of a rotten society about to turn on itself. Well, it was 1976, after all, when New York was very different, before Times Square had been Disney-fied.

Once again, Schrader is a real life Travis. And he's still out there, so watch out DJ!

« Last Edit: June 03, 2013, 01:40:37 PM by noodles_leone » Logged


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« Reply #12048 on: June 03, 2013, 01:35:53 PM »

do you think that final shot was Scorsese setting us up for a possible sequel?

I don't think so... The whole movie led to this... The ending is designed to be like the opening, but with a more menacing tone, as noted by Jenkins. Scorsese talks about it on the commentary track.

btw, I've I've heard people argue that Travis dies in the shootout; the rest of the movie is his dying thoughts. (When he picks up Betsy in the cab, I think you can see a scar on the left side of his neck where he was shot - which would indicate that perhaps it is literal - but it is not very clear, as Travis is only shot from head-on in that scene).
My problem with the "dying thoughts" interpretation is that it does not explain that final shot. Even if he is indeed fantasizing, as he is dying, about being a hero and Betsy respecting him, that wouldn't explain why he would be suddenly reacting to that thing in the mirror. I think it's all literal.

I don't believe this, but I understand how the god's POV floating camera with lots of fades shots can hint at this theory.

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« Reply #12049 on: June 03, 2013, 02:15:54 PM »

BTW, sorry I was using equivocating terms in my previous post:

When I said "in the left side of his neck where he was shot," I meant that someone fired a gun and the  bullet hit the left side of his neck.

When I said that in that final scene "he is only shot from head-on," I meant that scene where picks up Betty in the cab, the camera films him only from straight-on, not from the side, so it isn't completely clear whether or not he has that scar from where the bullet hit him.
(I think you see the scar when he turns his head once, but it is not very clear [perhaps intentionally so?] if he has no scar, then the final scene is definitely a fantasy -- no way would he recover from those bullet wounds without a scar. But if he does have the scar, then the final scene can be a fantasy or reality).

Anyway, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have been so careless as to use the word "shot" twice in the same post but referring to different things

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« Reply #12050 on: June 03, 2013, 02:17:25 PM »

I don't think so... The whole movie led to this... The ending is designed to be like the opening, but with a more menacing tone, as noted by Jenkins. Scorsese talks about it on the commentary track.

I don't believe this, but I understand how the god's POV floating camera with lots of fades shots can hint at this theory.

To say nothing of the possible wish-fulfillment scenes of Travis being made a hero, and then getting to snub Betsy. The only problem with this idea is a) as Drink says, the look-in-the-rearview bit doesn't square very well with it, and b) Marty doesn't seem to be aware of this interpretation. At least, he's never mentioned it as far as I know.

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« Reply #12051 on: June 03, 2013, 02:17:58 PM »



Yep, that's what I mean by "Am I defined by what I do or by who I am?"
The Sartrian answer is "by what I do", because nobody cares about your potential. It has no effect on the world. What you do, whatever the reasons are (will, luck, love, money, hard work...) has real consequences. The regular religious answer is "who I am", because that's the only consequence that matters. The Scorsese answer is, as far as I (and you I guess) understand is: "who I am", because sooner or later, that's what I will do.



If by "what you do," you mean to say "how you earn a livelihood," then yeah, religion definitely doesn't define you by that.

If by "what you do," you mean to say "your actions, ie. good deeds or bad deeds," then some religions will definitely say you are defined by that

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« Reply #12052 on: June 03, 2013, 02:21:07 PM »

If by "what you do," you mean to say "how you earn a livelihood," then yeah, religion definitely doesn't define you by that.

If by "what you do," you mean to say "you actions, ie. good deeds or bad deeds," then some religions will definitely say you are defined by that

I mean actions. And yes you're probably right

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« Reply #12053 on: June 03, 2013, 02:22:02 PM »

here is a very nice, and pretty short, summary on wikipedia of the fantasy vs. reality interpretations of the ending: Roger Ebert mentions the possibility of fantasy, James Berardinelli says it is strictly reality, and it says that on the laserdisc commentary, Scrsese acknowledged that some critics interpreted it as fantasy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxi_Driver#Interpretations_of_the_ending

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« Reply #12054 on: June 03, 2013, 02:24:07 PM »

here is a very nice, and pretty short, summary on wikipedia of the fantasy vs. reality interpretations of the ending: Roger Ebert mentions the possibility of fantasy, James Berardinelli says it is strictly reality, and it says that on the laserdisc commentary, Scrsese acknowledged that some critics interpreted it as fantasy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxi_Driver#Interpretations_of_the_ending
But did Marty endorse that reading? That's kind of important.

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« Reply #12055 on: June 03, 2013, 02:25:54 PM »

Once again, Schrader is a real life Travis.
How can you know this, unless you've helped him bury the bodies?

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« Reply #12056 on: June 03, 2013, 02:27:11 PM »

I mean actions. And yes you're probably right

(the reason I thought you might mean "by how you earn a livelihood" is because of the speech the other taxi driver gives Bickle when he comes to him for help, the rambling speech where he tells him that people seem to be defined by their job. [btw, I got a kick out of how even a nutjob like Bickle recognizes that that speech is "the biggest load of shit I have ever heard" (paraphrasing)].

RE: religion: it's tough to say "religion believes X" or "religion believes Y." There are many different religions and, even the ones that people like to lump together (eg. with a dumb term like "Judeo-Christian") are very different. Some religions say that your reward/punishment is based on your actions, good deeds vs. bad deeds; while others say "just believe and you will be saved."

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« Reply #12057 on: June 03, 2013, 02:35:13 PM »

How can you know this, unless you've helped him bury the bodies?

He tells it in the commentary track. He talks about how he behaved a lot like Travis, dressed like Travis, lived like Travis when he wrote Taxi Driver.
Ok, he never killed anyone but... we're talking about the guy who wrote Taxi Driver and Bringing Out the Dead. He IS a psycho.

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« Reply #12058 on: June 03, 2013, 02:41:04 PM »

So you think writers write "what they do" rather than "who they are"?

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« Reply #12059 on: June 03, 2013, 02:47:41 PM »

Haha I think a book is what a writer does. Who he is helped him write the book, but in the end, he dies, the book stays.

Example: Leone could be a jerk. And a liar. And he was pretentious. In the end, who cares? He's dead now and what matters is OUATITW.

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