“Loneliness has been following me my whole life.”
Travis Bickle can’t sleep at night. So, he decides to drive a cab. This brings the directionless drifter face to face with the human vermin that live in New York City. Wistfully prophetic, Bickle writes in his diary, “Someday a real rain will come and wipe this scum off the streets.” As Travis jumps from episode to episode, he locks on to new obsessions that he hopes will give him a sense of purpose. An awkward and soon failed relationship with Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a political campaign worker, leads Travis to an awkward and failed attempt at political assassination. Bickle becomes pre-occupied with Iris (Jodie Foster), a 12-year-old prostitute, and his vendetta becomes personal. In one of the most graphic bloodbaths in screen history, Bickle leads a one-man crusade against Iris’ pimp, her johns and anyone standing in his way.
Martin Scorsese directed an incredibly intimate, almost suffocating portrait of loneliness and obsession from Paul Schrader’s episodic script. In a period of his own personal emptiness and despair, Schrader was able to capture the urban phenomena of violent desolation and the language and poetry of incommunicative male relationships. Cinematographer Michael Chapman’s stunning photography not only contributes to the overwhelming hopelessness of Bickle’s story, but emphasizes the grand bleakness of the Big Apple and its emasculating power. Binding all of the elements together is Bernard Herrmann’s evocative score, which ranges from frightening horror film soundtrack to romantic jazz music. (Miraculously, Herrmann finished recording the score mere hours before he died.)
“The days go on and on... they don't end. All my life needed was a sense of someplace to go. I don't believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention, I believe that one should become a person like other people.”