"Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man."
And for my last blog post, I've chosen to watch Taxi Driver, starring another acting great, Robert De Niro. Not only that, but this movie was directed by Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas, The Departed, Raging Bull). So I have high hopes.
While De Niro is the main character and is highly regarded for this role, a shorter onscreen appearance is affecting as well. Jodie Foster's role (which I will describe later) required her to meet with a child-welfare worker, and Foster wasn't allowed on set when certain scenes were being filmed. And yet, Foster's acting was uncomfortably adult. This is one of those instances where an actor/actress's performance is impressive because of the sheer nature of the role.
To look back on this whole project, I'm thankful that I chose to watch movies. It served as a de-stresser, because I could sit down and just enjoy a movie for about 2 hours. And the fact that I had to do this as a project made me a more attentive movie watcher as well. When it came time to review the movie in a blog post, I was able to think about why I did or didn't like the movie, and relate it to my own personal experiences. I actually discovered some things about myself through what characters I related to and what genres I had an affinity for.
Click HERE for Taxi Driver Summary
Robert De Niro said, "One of the things about acting is it allows you to live other people's lives without having to pay the price." And this applies perfectly to his role in Taxi Driver. Because Travis Bickle is an unsettling mix of hero and villain, crazy and charitable, laid back and obsessive.
Oh yeah, this movie's pretty violent too.
Travis, a former U.S. Marine, becomes a Manhattan taxi driver working the night shift because he's lonely, and he can't sleep at night. The transitions of the film are short, dream-like clips of his nighttime drives, with jazz sounding music playing over the clips. Travis's initial endeavor seems normal enough. He constantly sees a beautiful woman named Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), and wants to ask her out. And he does just that, by marching into her place of work (a campaign office for presidential candidate Charles Palantine) and asking her out on a date that same day. A little creepy, but still okay. ish. While on the date, Travis says he doesn't like Betsy's co-worker. Okay, already being a bit controlling but still within normal circumstances. Then, on their next date, Travis takes Betsy to see a Swedish sex education film. And around this point is when it becomes glaringly obvious that Travis Bickle is just a bittt off. He genuinely doesn't understand why Betsy is upset, and he gets upset when Betsy doesn't return any of his calls. We see Travis buy guns and create ways to conceal his weapons. We see him at the shooting range/practicing combat, and delivering that iconic "You talkin to me?" line to a mirror. Travis had a run in earlier in the movie with a child prostitute named Iris, played by Jodie Foster. She got into his cab, only to be dragged away by a man named Matthew "Sport" Higgins (who turns out to be her boyfriend [?] and pimp). Travis buys 15 minutes with Iris, but he only tries to convince her that she should stop doing what she's doing and go back home. So at least he's not a complete creep right? Travis then has an awkward conversation with a secret service agent at one of Palantine's rallies, and consequently tries to shoot Palantine at the next rally, only to be seen by the secret service men and chased after. Travis gets away and later goes to kill some a mobster, Sport, and a bouncer. Travis is severely injured from the fight. Iris witnesses the violence, and is shown cowering. In a sort of epilogue, we hear a letter from Iris's parents, and the audience learns she is back home with her family, Travis survived his multiple wounds and is regarded as a hero, and he's still working as a taxi driver.
The whole movie, I didn't know how to feel about Travis. One second he would do something insane and wrong, seemingly without reason, and then he would do something equally as crazy but actually pretty cool the next second. His motives are blurred, and his state of mind is obviously unstable. He's pretty much a psychopath. His mental state declines throughout the movie, and the scenes get creepier and more violent to reflect that. Travis is often silent, and his silence is never overdone or awkward. It's the perfect amount of eerie and intimidating. Even though Travis Bickle is like this, I still connected to his character. He made me constantly uneasy, but I tried to sympathize with him. I think a lot of this is because of all the heart and effort De Niro put into the role. He made it so convincing that Bickle wasn't just a character on a screen, he was a real person that had real problems and feelings. Many say that this is De NIro's defining role, and it's hard to argue with that.
"Were Mr. De Niro less an actor, the character [Travis Bickle] would be a sideshow freak. The screenplay, of course, gives him plenty to work with. Until the final sequences, Taxi Driver has a kind of manic aimlessness that is a direct reflection of Travis's mind, capable of spurts of common sense and discipline that are isolated in his general confusion." - Vincent Canby
Travis is a lonely guy, aimlessly spurting through life.
Travis's short lived romance with Betsy.
Jodie Foster as Iris.
Travis talking to himself in the mirror, practicing for some sort of imaginary confrontation.
The night time driving scenes set the tone of the movie. They also looked really cool.
The aftermath of the final gory scene.
"You shouldn't keep souvenirs of a killing. You shouldn't have been that sentimental."
3/4 movies are done. So far, all of these movies have been on the older side, so I'm excited to watch more recent movies. I think I've built up a tolerance to older movies because of this project, but I've also learned that there's a lot of common themes in older movies (more on that later).
The third movie I watched is Vertigo. It's a film made in 1958, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who is credited as being one of the greatest directors of all time. His movies like Rear Window and Psycho have been praised for decades. I was excited but also nervous to watch this movie, because it's a little scarier then the ones I've seen.
Click HERE for Vertigo Summary
Vertigo is an American Psychological Thriller. It's based on the 1954 novel D'entre les morts (From Among the Dead) by Boileau-Narcejac. The first scene of the movie is a chase scene that goes wrong, leaving main character San Francisco detective John "Scottie" Ferguson (James Stewart) with acrophobia (fear of heights). He retires, and his friend Midge Wood (Barbara Bel Geddes) attempts to help him get rid of his vertigo/acrophobia, but to no avail. Gavin Elster, Scottie's old college friend, hires Scottie to follow his wife Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak). Gavin says Madeleine has been acting weird, and claims she is possessed by her ancestor Carlotta Valdes. Scottie follows Madeleine around to a bunch of places which point to the possession suspicion being true. Scottie also seems to be infatuated with her. Eventually, Scottie follows Madeleine to Fort Point, where Madeleine jumps into the bay, seemingly attempting suicide. Scottie rescues her, and brings her back to his place. She reveals that she had no idea how she got to Fort Point, and she does not know where she has been the whole day. The next day, Scottie and Madeleine take a road trip, where they express their love for each other. Scottie takes Madeleine to the scene of her nightmare, Mission San Juan Bautista. Madeleine suddenly runs into the church tower, and starts rushing up the stairs. Scottie attempts to follow her up to the top, but his vertigo stops him from going any further. He sees Madeleine's body dropping through the church window, and Scottie is overwhelmed with grief. Later, her death is ruled a suicide, and Gavin does not blame Scottie for her death. But Scottie is still extremely guilty, and is severely depressed. One day, Scottie sees a woman who reminds him of Madeleine. He follows her, and while she attempts to fend him off, she agrees to a date. It is revealed that the woman, Judy Barton, was actually part of a murder plot with Gavin Elster. She masqueraded as Madeleine Elster, and tricked Scottie into believing that it was her body falling from the roof of the church, when in reality, Gavin Elster was waiting at the top with the real Madeleine Elster's dead body, which he merely threw over the edge of the church. She does not tell this to Scottie, and pretends to be a completely different person because of her love for Scottie. But Scottie starts dressing Judy in Madeleine style clothing, and even tells her to change her hair to make it like Madeleine's. She is initially resistant, wanting Scottie to accept her for her. But Scottie insists, and she complies. While preparing for a night out, Scottie notices Judy wearing a necklace that Madeleine wore, that was specifically supposed to be an heirloom from Carlotta Valdes. Scottie realizes that Madeliene is Judy, and takes Judy to the mission again. Scottie makes it to the top of the tower with Judy, conquering his acrophobia. He says the only way for him to get over his madness is for Judy to admit her role in the plot, which she does. They hug and tell each other they love each other. But then a shadowy figure arises from behind Scottie, and Judy gets shocked, then falls from the bell tower to her death. The figure is revealed to be a nun, who says she heard voices, and Scottie is left looking empty again.
Scottie's obsession with Madeline was insane, but the way the movie played it out didn't make that obsession so obvious. We knew that Scottie loved Madeleine, but we didn't realize how creepy and obsessive he was until the final act. This creeps up on you, and makes the movie even more thrilling near the end. Hitchcock did a lot of things well in the movie, and I understand why he he's so good at thrillers. He's amazing at building suspense, and putting in little things that you don't notice till later (which somehow makes it more terrifying). I really liked this movie, and it was probably the first scary type movie that I could actually take, no problem. That's partly due to the good story and captivating on screen work. Both James Stewart and Kim Novak are startlingly convincing in their roles, and also help with the immersion factor.
"Unfortunately, even that mastery is not enough to overcome one major fault, for the plain fact is that the film’s first half is too slow and too long. This may be because: (1) Hitchcock became overly enamored with the vertiginous beauty of Frisco; or (2) the Alec Coppel-Samuel Taylor screenplay (from the novel “D’entre Les Morts” by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac) just takes too long to get off the ground."- Variety
The opening sequence, showing how Scottie developed acrophobia and vertigo.
I didn't realize how undeniably creepy this scene was. I gave Scottie a pass because he was investigating a possessed Madeleine, but looking back even that sounds ridiculous. Another example of how Hitchcock's suspense creeps up on you.
Scottie was completely infatuated with Madeleine/Judy. Stewart and Novak's acting is so subtle yet effective.
Scottie's nightmare about vertigo and his guilt.
There's a whole sequence where Scottie is just driving around in his car, trailing Madeleine. It's a simple scene, but the slow chase is building up suspense, and Hitchcock is creating a foundation for Scottie's obsession. It might be seen as a slow scene, but the surrounding look at San Francisco doesn't hurt the scene at all.
The last scene of Vertigo, where there seems to be some sort of happy ending for Scottie and Judy in store, but instead, Judy is killed off, and Scottie is left feeling vacant and devastated.
This should go without saying.
Kelby Custodio, Junior at Pacifica High School.