Quentin Tarantino’s love of Martin Scorsese is no secret, with the culturally pertinent director of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and the proposed Kill Bill 3, including 1976’s Taxi Driver, on the list of his favourite films of all time. Starring Robert De Niro as the iconic Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver is one of the most celebrated films by Martin Scorsese, alongside Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Raging Bull.
Winning Martin Scorsese a Palme d’Or in 1976 as well as several Oscar nominations, Taxi Driver helped elevate the director’s profile before he would go on to dominate the industry from the 1980s through to the ‘90s. With Robert De Niro in the lead, the film itself is an uncompromising psychoanalysis of a nighttime taxi driver in New York whose urge for violence tips his reality over the edge.
Having long-admired the film, Quentin Tarantino has spent considerable time breaking down the themes of Scorsese’s classic, from the central character to the tiny details that Scorsese sprinkles over the finished product.
Here, let’s take a look into just five reasons Quentin Tarantino loves Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.
Why Quentin Tarantino loves Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver:
It’s a great first-person character study
Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle is known as one of the greatest characters in cinema history, and for good reason too, with Martin Scorsese developing the mind of a complicated individual, with help from screenwriter Paul Schrader.
As Quentin Tarantino states in a discussion with Sky Movies: “One of the things about Taxi Driver [is] that it is just so magnificent. I actually do feel that it may be the greatest first-person character study ever committed to film. I mean, I really actually can’t even think of a second, or a third or a fourth that can even come into contention with it”.
Continuing, he adds, “Scorsese, at this time of his career, had a connection to cinema and no matter how dark the material was, there was such an exuberance to filmmaking”.
Quentin Tarantino is no stranger to Harvey Keitel, having worked with the iconic actor on Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, and he is vocal in his admiration towards him in Martin Scorsese’s film too.
As Tarantino notes, “His performance is so magnificent as the pimp Sport and his performance with De Niro is of such an exquisite nature, as well as his work with Jodie Foster”.
Continuing, the filmmaker adds, “Which, actually, is about the only sequence in the movie that is not told from Travis Bickle’s perspective. They’re dancing. Is of such quality and his work as Sport is so magnetic and strangely personable [laughs] that what could be a crippling contrivance isn’t”.
He was critical of the criticisms
Such a supporter of Taxi Driver that Quentin Tarantino is quick to shut down any criticism aimed at the film, so when critics of the film labelled it as racist, the director was quick to jump to Taxi Driver’s defence.
Discussing this aspect of the film, Tarantino comments, “One of the criticisms that was labelled against the movie when it first came out – which was wrong, but very understandable for a lot of viewers to mistake – was that the film was racist. And actually, the film is not racist at all, but it is a movie about a racist”.
Elaborating, he adds, “Not only is the film about a racist, it’s [also] a first-person study of a movie about a racist. So actually, you do see the world through Travis Bickle’s eyes. And through those eyes, he makes, you know, the black pimps and the black characters on the street, they are repellant”.
The fine details
A cold, quiet character study, Taxi Driver is a film that triumphs thanks to the strength of its central protagonist, though there are several fine details that also help to bolster the quality of the film too.
Also responsible for utilising the fine details in his own films, it’s a feature in Taxi Driver that Quentin Tarantino loves too. Explaining his stance, Tarantino comments, “What’s such a forward thrust of this first-person character, one of the things that’s so fascinating about it is all the other little bits that find itself in the movie that serve at completely at odds with this tone of a madman’s diary, which is more or less what we’re dealing with here. For instance, some of the favourite bits in the film, are the little scenes between Cybill Shepherd and Albert Brooks”.
He couldn’t have done it himself
Ever the egotist, Quentin Tarantino can’t help but consider how Martin Scorsese made such a masterpiece, musing about how such an endeavour would be so tricky for himself.
Concluding, Quentin Tarantino states: “You can imagine the work that is Taxi Driver. If you had made it, completed it, you would be understandably happy. Truthfully, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to make Taxi Driver”.