Art & Design


Taxi Driver at The Astor

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”You’re only as healthy as you feel,’ ponders Taxi Driver’s protagonist during an internal aside, just as his world begins to crumble.

Hailed as one of the greatest films ever made, Taxi Driver, released in 1976, was directed by gangster-film maestro Martin Scorsese, and is even by today’s standards a violent and disturbing piece of cinema.

The taxi driver of the title is Travis Bickle, played with haunting empathy by Robert De Niro. A veteran having recently returned from Vietnam, Travis takes a job as a cabbie as a potential cure for his insomnia. He cruises the streets at night and sees the city he lives in at its worst: drugs, murder, prostitution and is unable to escape its effects – plunging into what William Friedkin described as ‘urban paranoia’.

Finding potential redemption in a young prostitute (played by a 13-year-old Jodie Foster) that he hopes to save from a life on the streets, Travis sees himself as a crusader that has the power to solve his city’s problems. Arming himself to the teeth, he prepares to do battle with the monsters that lurk in the darkness of the night, and we get a glimpse of the monster within Travis.

A fascinating character study on the effects of urban isolation and modern social disconnectedness, as well as a comment on post-traumatic stress disorder in relation to soldiers returning from war (which is never brought to the fore in the film, but most certainly hinted at given Travis’ military past) Taxi Driver shows the decline of its main character by startling and brutal means, and is a truly disturbing journey into a damaged man’s psyche.

You now have the opportunity to see Scorsese’s masterpiece on the big screen, which is assuredly a much more powerful—albeit inescapable—experience. Having been recently restored for its 35th anniversary, The Astor Theatre is playing it all week from August 14th to the 21st. And with The Astor’s new 4K digital projector, it really is a beautiful sight to behold.

A side-note to all of the puritans out there: have no fear, the restoration has been handled masterfully, and the film hasn’t lost any of its grittiness. None of the glorious 70s film-grain that has provided an extra amount of seediness and grime to Taxi Driver and other films of its era and ilk over the years has been sacrificed in the process.

Thank the film-gods for that.

Taxi Driver plays at The Astor
August 14 – 21
1 Chapel St, St. Kilda

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