Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1976. Columbia Pictures Corporation, Columbia Pictures, Bill/Phillips, Italo/Judeo Productions. Screenplay by Paul Schrader. Cinematography by Michael Chapman. Produced by Julia Phillips, Michael Phillips. Music by Bernard Herrmann. Production Design by Charles Rosen. Costume Design by Ruth Morley. Film Editing by Tom Rolf, Melvin Shapiro. Academy Awards 1976. Cannes Film Festival 1976. Golden Globe Awards 1976.
An absolutely perfect film, mostly remembered now (unfortunately) for Robert De Niro‘s oft-imitated, never duplicated mirror monologue (who can say “You talkin’ to me?” without making someone shudder?). He plays a New York City cab driver and Vietnam veteran whose loneliness and frustration with the world around him, a world he can observe but never really get to know, drives him to the dark side of sanity and into a realm of disturbing violence. He attempts to touch goodness by pursuing a relationship with a beautiful political campaign worker (Cybill Shepherd) while also befriending a child prostitute (a young but riveting Jodie Foster) who is being mistreated by her sleazy pimp. Eventually he acts out at the world of criminals and degenerates around him, with Paul Schrader’s seedy screenplay performing an exquisite counterpoint to Martin Scorsese’s elegant direction, a dirty exploration of New York City’s gritty underbelly filmed like a big-budget Hollywood musical. De Niro handles the part brilliantly (just look at his face while Scorsese himself rants about his unfaithful wife in the back seat of the cab, it’s some of the best acting ever seen on screen), while Foster displays an early natural brilliance that would logically lead to the successful career she had ahead of her. Its impact on cinema is immense (including a real-life presidential assassination attempt by a fan obsessed with Foster’s character), and the film is, in my mind anyway, Scorsese’s masterpiece.