When I started writing about cinema almost eighteen months ago, there was one film above all others which I was nervous to write about. A year and a half, over five hundred reviews and approximately 470,000 words later, the same film was still looming large over me. That film was Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, my favourite of all time. The unease came from two perspectives. On the one hand I didn’t feel as though my writing, limited in experience and knowledge as I am, could do it justice while I was also conscious about penning a review which ran for thousands of words and which no one would have the interest or time to read. It wasn’t until earlier this week when a friend said with some surprise that he couldn’t find Taxi Driver on my A-Z that I thought that time to review it had come. So with the added expectation of an audience waiting, I sat down to watch my favourite film once again.
Within ten seconds of the film starting, a bright, broad smile shone across my face. The entire film came back to me within the first few frames and I began to think ahead to the magnificent scenes which were to follow over the coming hour and fifty minutes. My excitement grew as the quickening snare and saxophone of Bernard Hermann’s score rose to meet the opening shot of a New York taxi appearing from behind a column of steam. The movie creates an off-kilter sensation within these first few seconds and it’s a feeling which continues to ride throughout the movie. The opening titles are a deep shade of blood red and forebode the bloodshed to come. The closeness of the taxi as it brushes past the static camera also creates a sense of excitement and danger and the jumping; out of focus lights as seen from inside the taxi make the viewer try in vain to pinpoint something recognisable. The eye darts across the screen in search of an image to grasp but is left wanting. Wanting that is until Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) walks out of the steam and into a taxi office.