YOU TALKIN’ TO ME? Orrin Judd puts Taxi Driver into a historical context:
If Taxi Driver is a great film–and I think it probably is one–it’s that visceral way in which we identify with Travis Bickle’s need to explode that makes it great. What with the Guiliani years, the Disneyfication of Times Square, and the after effects of 9-11, many folks, especially younger ones, may not recall what a Godforsaken place, in a nearly literal sense, New York City was in the ’70s. But it was a place that made you think, at least a couple times a day, about lashing out senselessly.
Youngsters trying to understand why Ronald Reagan holds such a singular place in conservative affections might want to think of Taxi Driver in these terms: it not only captured the spirit of a certain time and place but seemed quite possibly predictive of the American future. That’s not to say that it isn’t anymore, just that we’ve been given a chance to avoid it.
Somehow I doubt that Scorsese is much of a fan of Rudy Guiliani, but he unwittingly gave him a huge compliment on morning TV a couple of years ago when promoting his then current movie, Bringing Out the Dead. He said (and this is not an exact quote), “The film is set in the early 1990s, and we had to put more trash on the streets to make it historically accurate.” Guiliani, for whatever his faults, left New York a far safer city than the one he inherited. It will be interesting to see what shape it’s in when Mike Bloomberg is done with it.