Dreamscapes In Scorsese’s ”Taxi Driver” | ArtiFact #45: Laura Woods, Jessica Schneider

ArtiFact: Books, Art, Culture

05-09-2023 • 59分

Universally heralded as an American classic, Martin Scorsese’s TAXI DRIVER (Robert DeNiro, Jodie Foster) deserves its reputation for nuance and the subtle ways in which its thematic, cinematic, and psychological elements cohere. Paul Schrader’s script allows for everything from understated racial critique, to a realistic depiction of how entanglements are made and broken, to the role of loneliness and purposelessness in the modern world. This is partly done by way of a dreamscape, which has enough plausible deniability to still feel "real".

In ArtiFact #45, Alex Sheremet is joined by Irish poet Laura Woods and poet, novelist, and film critic Jessica Schneider to offer fresh insight into Martin Scorsese’s seminal film and the psychology of its protagonist, Travis Bickle. You can also watch this conversation on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8u7n9uTexs

To get the B Side to this conversation, support us on Patreon and get Patron-only content: https://www.patreon.com/automachination

B Side topics: Jessica on Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”; Jessica physically acts out “demon children”; Laura on Gerard Manley Hopkins; guilt and art; Alex “wanders off”; reading John Donne; social services & abortion politics in Ireland; Tanizaki’s “Some Prefer Nettles”; Laura on COVID politics in Ireland; on modern Russian music & the Soviet bard tradition; American meddling in Russia’s elections; translating Russian poetry; & much more

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Jessica Schneider’s essay on Taxi Driver: https://www.automachination.com/mindful-loneliness-martin-scorseses-taxi-driver-1976/

Dan Schneider's essay on Taxi Driver and Travis Bickle: http://www.cosmoetica.com/B928-DES721.htm

Read Alex Sheremet’s (archived) essays: https://alexsheremet.com

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0:00 – thematic coherence in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver; Travis Bickle’s arbitrary attachments of value; Betty’s rejection quickens Travis Bickle’s psychotic break; the function of The Wizard character; choice vs. determinism

5:58 – racial hang-ups in Taxi Driver; the Alka-Seltzer scene & its "dream thug"; the beating of a dead robber might be Travis Bickle's own fantasy; Paul Schrader's original script called for black actors to play the film’s pimps and johns; Charles Palantine vs. Robert Altman's Hal Philip Walker (Nashville)

11:48 – Travis Bickle's "misguided earnestness"; his romantic impulses are impulsive, yet his critiques tend to be "correct" purely by coincidence; analyzing a scene where some children harass Travis Bickle

19:20 – empathy & character relatability; Dan Schneider's assessment of Travis Bickle’s psychology; the world’s current default state of loneliness

26:00 – Travis Bickle's conservative values; the humor + empathy of Travis feeling repulsed by immorality; the Mike Leigh connection; a Woody Allen + Annie Hall connection; how Travis enters & leaves lucidity; incels & White Knight psychology; even a scumbag pimp like Matthew (Sport) “sees” Travis Bickle’s lack of social adjustment

36:24 – how cognizant is Travis Bickle of his situation?; Travis's family vs. Jodie Foster's family; was there abuse at home?; neglected Martin Scorsese films; Paul Schrader produced a weak script for 'Light Sleeper'; how Taxi Driver predicted Jordan B. Peterson types; Roger Ebert on Martin Scorsese

51:46 – Travis Bickle: “I believe someone should become a person like other people”; underlying profundity vs. crass profundity; confession time: Alex Sheremet just can’t get through Mishima’s “Spring Snow”; Mishima’s "Temple of the Golden Pavilion"; why Murakami (mostly) sucks; Lars von Trier is Ingmar Bergman without the depth

Tags: #cinema #psychology #taxidriver