Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Extra Credit: TAXI DRIVER (1976)
In this scene, Michael Chapman, the cinematographer, incorporates beautifully the red lighting of the huge diner sign (called the Bellmore Cafe). As Travis stares at the black kid, we feel this is a living hell. New York City is a living hell. What Travis is feeling is a living hell. The last scene, the killing in which Travis saves Iris, played by Jodie Foster, is very important in terms of lighting. Iris has candles lit all over the room and those flames become a metaphor for hell again after Travis has murdered all those men.
The music, provided by Bernard Herrmann, adds another important element to the film. It adds tension. Even in the opening shot as the taxi pulls up and emerges from the smoke, it's a loud abrupt sound that introduces the film. This same loud sound that resembles a slow beating drum plays longer during the overhead slow motion final shot of the Travis massacre in the apartment.
The setting is New York City post Vietnam. Travis hates his surroundings. He doesn't like the garbage. Or the hookers and pimps. But unfortunately, it's a perfect backdrop for the film. The film is about rejection and Travis gets rejected by Betsy, played by Cybill Shepherd. Travis also rejects New York City and its horrid, dirty conditions.
In terms of wardrobe, two things stand out: Travis' green jacket and his mohawk. This green jacket is important because he wears it mostly throughout the whole film. He keeps his drinking flask inside and tucks his hands when he's cold. It's who he is. The mohawk is significant because of its revelation and the timing of it. We see the mohawk as Travis stands outside the political rally. The camera only shows up to his neck initially and then it tilts up to show his face. He has a tight grin and a mohawk. It represents a change in him and a change in the tone of the film because he's now about to go on his murdering spree.