After the (Y) machine took a festive break, the wheels are again starting to turn. To ring in the New Year, I’m going to be telling you about each of my ten favourite movies. it’s been harder than expected to elucidate my feelings on these films, usually “just watch the damn thing” is more effective than a series of ridiculous superlatives, but here goes. I hope you enjoy!
I’ve discussed this film very deeply previously, from a more intellectual standpoint. Now I’ve got to try to explain what it is about this film that appeals to me as a fan. As with the Auteur Theory breakdown, it comes down to it’s three main components.
- Its star. Robert De Niro is one the greats, it’s widely agreed and rarely ever contradicted. His star has fallen recently but the man is 70 and has contributed more to cinema than any of his decriers. This is his best performance. Travis Bickle seems at once naive and astonished by the world and its intricacies and contradictorily widened to it’s horrors and sick to the stomach with the filth it encapsulates.
- Its writer. Paul Schrader almost is Travis Bickle. He wrote the film in hospital, in ten days, after the dissolution of his marriage lead to sleeping in his car and binge drinking and a stomach ulcer. Following the story of Arthur Bremer, a man who failed an attempt to assassinate Presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972, he put together the script based on the synchronicity he felt with Bremer and the disillusionment he himself felt with the world. It’s his words and his experience that feeds directly into De Niro’s cyphered performance.
- Its Director. Similarly feeding off his own memories and feelings, Scorsese transformed his hometown of New York into a neon-drenched, rain soaked haven for the hedonistic and set about deconstructing it throughout the malice of De Niro’s Bickle. A great director’s greatest film.
All this without even getting to Jodie Foster’s breakout performance as a child prostitute, Harvey Keitel as her pimp and Bernard Herrmann’s haunting score, his last. This is a film that takes incendiary looks at our imperfect society and does so by being perfect from every conceivable angle.
– Oliver Drew