Taxi Driver

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 7:30pm
USA 1976. Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle, Albert Brooks


“You talkin’ to me?” With those words, Taxi Driver‘s ex-marine protagonist, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), entered the pantheon of damaged anti-heroes of cinema. Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic, which follows Bickle’s descent into sociopathic alienation, begins the thematic exploration of the outsider that the director would continue in 1980’s Raging Bull. The film recounts Bickle’s transformation from insomniac taxi driver unable to meaningfully connect with other people to media hero and violent vigilante bent on eradicating New York City’s “scum.” Bickle is already a misfit and loner as the film opens; he’s pushed further to the edge after his romantic advances towards Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), the young woman with whom he becomes infatuated, are spurned. His unbalance leads to an assassination attempt on the presidential candidate for whom Betsy works and, later, the violent rescue of teen prostitute Iris (played by a 13-year-old Jodie Foster). (In an infamous real-life twist, John Hinckley, Jr.’s attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981 was an effort to impress Foster, with whom Hinckley had become obsessed.) “A great movie . . . It hasn’t aged so much as triumphantly metastasized. Since the mid-1970s, Taxi Driver has become presciently emblematic of our emotionally diseased, violence-prone culture” (Desson Howe, Washington Post). Colour, 35mm. 113 mins.

Post-screening discussion with Mark Harris. Although he received his doctorate in Comparative Literature, Mark teaches in the Film Studies program at the University of British Columbia. A prolific writer and journalist, he is the co-author of “Wild at Heart: The Films of Nettie Wild, published in the Pacific Cinémathèque Monograph Series, as well as approximately 4,000 essays, articles and reviews. A native of Montreal, Mark has lived in Vancouver for the past 35 years.

Moderated by Dr. Harry Karlinsky, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.