February 12, 1976 [Taxi Driver]

I don’t know if the stink of Taxi Driver will ever leave my nostrils--and I’m afraid it’ll spread, the greasy filth of New York City smeared all the way to the Pacific; and it sticks to the President’s cuffs, and splashes a little on the street drummer, his eyes raised up, as blind as the other taxi drivers hanging out with Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle, shootin’ the shit in the coffee shop, not quite hearing everything the little guy says--so the little guy goes home, and takes stock of his loneliness, and stocks up, and cuts a deep trench for the black-and-red-stained apocalypse to flow into the gutter, where his cab hunches under the punishment of Bernard Hermann’s score.

Paul Schrader’s screenplay engraves this evil scripture in wet stone--but Martin Scorsese’s direction jangles the story, jumping and sliding his camera as though it’s being forced to watch, to keep a record no one wants. And the help he gets is remarkable: Jodie Foster as the child prostitute, her smile easy, just waiting for the right tornado to blow her back to Kansas, Mr. and Mrs. Steensma relieved at last; and Harvey Keitel the pimp, posing just so, the tough cookie who thinks he’s figured out his end of the deal; and Cybill Shepherd, the Wellesley girl getting out of the way just in time, her own smile easy--too easy, maybe; and Peter Boyle, the clueless Wizard, rocking back on his heels and lucky he doesn’t have to stick around; and Albert Brooks stuck in there like the only survivor of a catastrophe he didn’t know is cutting loose right at his shoulder. And once more, New York itself, its hair a wreck, its suit rumpled--no, shabby, clotted with whatever mess it had slept in the night before, standing at the counter and eating like a pig, ripe for Travis’ alien appreciation of its neck stretched out, waiting for his knife. And yes, it’s lookin’ at him, all right, and he looks back.


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