Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver ★★★★★

Mankind is a twelve-year-old prostitute, strung out on the life-time supply of sin offered by the fedora'd Harvey Keitel that is the world and its worldly wisdom. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast, and they worshipped the beast, saying, “When I'm not stoned I got no place else to go.” Whore-teen Iris does not actually care too deeply about the supposed virtues of the Women's Lib movement, Vermonter communes, or astrological parallels. They're only accessories, like her selection of tacky sunglasses, just as the Palantine political campaign is only an aesthetic distraction (very much an “always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom” kind of rhetorician, a figure Scorsese comically laments the loss of in the Reagan Era commentary track) for its otherwise aimless volunteers.

At his dark turning point, Bickle seeks the worldly wisdom of a colleague and finds that the emptiness he can't stand is an emptiness that others are apparently satisfied with. While every-one else seems to be able to remain relatively stable and civil while absorbed in their vanity, Bickle can't so easily distract himself, possibly because half of his life is spent night-driving with mellow Bernard Herrmann jazz as his only stimulation. Decrying “morbid self-attention” is the most obvious piece of irony in his monologues, as it's all he's got. The idle hands of a seedy, godless degenerate in a seedy, godless city aren't preventing such a vanity from inflating and perverting into some pretty heinous actions. With man, this is impossible.

It's the ultimate character study, but of course, it's all Dostoyevsky Lite with the Christ cut out. Schrader scrapped growth and goodness for the usual anticlimactic n-i-h-i-l-i-s-m, but immersing the audience in Bickle's perverse motivations is probably sufficient for the audience to recognize a fall of man when they see one. No, it's not somehow a step up from Crime and Punishment to ditch the resolution—there's nothing “pat” about rebirth and redemption—but the savage demon of vanity, thinly disguised by self-justifying delusions, does speak for itself upon cinematic scrutiny. No regrets here for memorizing and reciting the "thank God for the rain" speech in high-school, though I hope I always gave it proper context.

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