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TAXI DRIVER Practical analysis : fiction film: paper 4-2

Paper 4-2: practical analysis: fiction film (Practical) Submitted by: Rahul Rajan MA film and television (semester four)

TAXI DRIVER Practical analysis : fiction film: paper 4-2

Running Time : 114 min Field Length : 10227 ft or 3119 mtrs. Colour Code : Colour Colour system : Metrocolor


Travis Bickle (De Niro), who claims to be an honorably discharged Marine. It

is implied that he is a Vietnam veteran. He is a lonely and depressed young man of 26. His origins are unknown. He sends his parents cards, lying about his life and saying he works with the Secret Service. He settles in Manhattan, where he becomes a night time taxi driver due to chronic insomnia (sleeplessness). Bickle spends his restless days in seedy porn theaters and works 12 or 14 hour shifts during the evening and night time hours carrying passengers among all five boroughs of New York City. Travis Bickle becomes interested in Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a campaign volunteer for New York Senator Charles Palantine, who is running for the presidential nomination and is promising dramatic social change. She is initially intrigued by Bickle and agrees to a date with him after he flirts with her over coffee and sympathizes with her own apparent loneliness. She compares him to a character in the Kris Kristofferson song "The Pilgrim, Chapter 33": "He's a prophet and a pusher, partly truth, partly fiction - a walking contradiction." On their date, however, Bickle is clueless about how to treat a woman and thinks it would be a good idea to take her to a Swedish sex education film (Language of Love).

TAXI DRIVER Practical analysis : fiction film: paper 4-2

Offended, she leaves him and takes a taxi home alone. The next day he tries to reconcile with Betsy, phoning her and sending her flowers, but all of his attempts are in vain. Rejected and depressed, Bickle's thoughts begin to turn violent. Disgusted by the petty street crime (especially prostitution) that he witnesses while driving through the city, he now finds a focus for his frustration and begins a program of intense physical training. He buys a number of pistols from an illegal dealer (Steven Prince) and practices a menacing speech in the mirror, while pulling out a pistol that he attached to a home-made sliding action holster on his right arm ("You talkin' to me?"). He develops an ominously intense interest in Senator Palantine's public appearances, and it seems that he somehow blames the presidential hopeful for his own failure at wooing Betsy and maybe hopes to include her boss in his growing list of targets. In an accidental warm-up, Bickle randomly walks into a robbery in a run-down grocery and shoots the robber (Nat Grant) in the face; adding to the bizarre violence, the grocery owner (Victor Argo) encourages Bickle (who has no permit for his guns) to flee the scene and then proceeds to club the near-dead stickup man with a steel pole. Bickle is revolted by what he considers the moral decay around him. One night while on shift, Iris (Jodie Foster), a 12-year-old child prostitute, gets in his cab, attempting to escape her pimp. Shocked by the occurrence, Bickle fails to drive off and the pimp, "Sport" (Harvey Keitel), reaches the cab. Sport gives Bickle a crumpled twenty-dollar bill, which haunts Bickle with the memory of his failure to help. Later seeing Iris on the street he pays for her time, although he does not have sex with her and instead tries to convince her to leave this way of life behind. The next day, they meet for breakfast, and Bickle becomes obsessed with saving this nave child-woman, who thinks hanging out with hookers, pimps, and drug dealers is more "hip" than dating young boys and going to school. Bickle is subsequently shown sporting a crude Mohawk haircut at a public rally in which he actually attempts to assassinate Senator Palantine. He is spotted by Secret Service men and flees. Bickle returns to

TAXI DRIVER Practical analysis : fiction film: paper 4-2

his apartment and then drives to Alphabet City where he shoots Sport in the abdomen, after which he storms into the brothel and kills the bouncer, Sport (who has followed Bickle), and Iris's mafioso customer. He then calmly tries repeatedly to fire a bullet into his own head from under his chin, but all the weapons are empty, so he resigns himself to resting on a convenient sofa until police arrive on the scene of mayhem and carnage and pretends to shoot himself when the police find him. A brief (and possibly imagined) epilogue shows Bickle recuperating from the incident. He has received a handwritten letter from Iris's parents who thank him for saving their daughter, and the media hail him as a hero for saving her as well. Bickle blithely returns to his job, where one night one of his fares happens to be Betsy. She comments about his saving of Iris and Bickle's own media fame, yet Bickle denies being any sort of hero. He drops her off without charging her and continues driving into the night-though not before hearing a small, piercing noise which causes him to stare hesitantly at an unseen object in his taxi's rearview mirror--possibly indicating a relapse of his past violent tendencies seen earlier in the film. TREATMENT OF THE STORY: Director takes the audience according to the happening of events in the life of Travis Bickle. The introduction of lady lead is a little flash back type. The voice over of Traviss writings leads us into the story. From the very first shot onwards director is mentally preparing the audience about the other side of America. The dirty face of American nights and streets is the main point of the story. The story takes off as a love story between Travis and Betsy but it suddenly divides into two. One part of the story is Traviss daily life and the other part of the story acting as a backdrop i.e., Mr.: Palatines Presidential campaign. It plays as a rigid wall for the flow of the story. After the opening of the story it then takes a linear structure of storytelling. It also has a tail end. A lot of discussion was made on its tail end.

TAXI DRIVER Practical analysis : fiction film: paper 4-2

Key Facts
1. 2.

(TIME) The summer of 1975 or 1976

(PLACE) New York City, mainly Manhattan Times Square, Harlem, around Union Square.

3. 4.

Travis Bickle

Travis struggles to find his place in the world, first as a member of society and later as an outsider.


Travis's sociopathic feelings increase after Betsy rejects him, fueling his desire to lash out and kill Palantine as well as his desire to save Iris.


After failing to kill Palantine, Travis perpetrates a brutal shootout in which he kills Sport, another pimp, and a john who is trying to see Iris.


Travis is proclaimed a hero by society and thanked by Iris's father. He has a reconciliation with Betsy that is probably imagined, suggesting that Travis is still mentally unstable.

TAXI DRIVER Practical analysis : fiction film: paper 4-2


Predetermined versus self-directed fate; loneliness in crowds; the glorification of violence



The taxi; racism; television

10. SYMBOLS Guns; the $20 bill; water 11. FORESHADOWING The music gives the film a sense of foreboding,

even before any hint that Travis will be violent appears. Travis's shooting of the young black man foreshadows his extreme and emotionless violence at the end of the film.

PLOT OVERVIEW music plays as a car emerges out of steam into a dark and threatening urban landscape. The camera flashes on Travis Bickle's eyes,


TAXI DRIVER Practical analysis : fiction film: paper 4-2

which appear menacing. The first scene after the credits introduces us to Travis as he interviews for a job as a taxi driver. He tells the interviewer that he is twenty-six years old, was honorably discharged from the Marines in 1973 (indicating to viewers that he served in the Vietnam War), and that he can't sleep at night. The interviewer reveals that he had been a Marine as well and tells Travis to come back for work the next day. Travis leaves and begins drinking from a flask in broad daylight. As Travis's job as a taxi driver begins, so does his diary, which we hear as a voiceover. Travis complains about how dirty New York is and talks about how he does not discriminate against his passengers. We see him driving around on a typical day. When he gets off work in the morning after driving for twelve hours at night, he immediately begins drinking and attends a porn film. At the entrance he tries to be friendly with the concession lady, a young black woman. She quickly rejects his efforts to reach out, so he spends his morning alone in the porn theater. Travis complains about his inability to sleep, even after working all night, and talks about wanting to become more normal. He wishes to have someplace to go and to fit in with other people. Travis hangs out with other cabbies sometimes at an all-night diner. He is clearly made uncomfortable by Charlie T, a black cab driver, and by the other black people in the diner. One day while driving his cab, Travis sees Betsy, a beautiful blond woman in a white dress. To Travis, she stands out from the rest of the people in the crowded, dirty city. Betsy works at the Palantine presidential campaign headquarters in New York. We see Betsy talking to her coworker, Tom, who also seems to be in love with Betsy, while Travis watches from his cab outside. Travis finally gathers the courage to ask Betsy out. He dresses up and walks into the campaign headquarters, introduces himself, and asks Betsy out for coffee. Charmed and intrigued, Betsy agrees. Travis and Betsy's date at the diner goes well, and she agrees to go to a movie with him. Later, coincidentally, Travis gives Palantine, the candidate, a ride in the cab. Travis flatters Palantine, saying he's Palantine's biggest supporter, but when Palantine pushes Travis to talk about an issue, Travis speaks inappropriately, saying that he just wants to see the city rid of all its scum. Travis's next fare is a young prostitute, Iris, who jumps in the cab and tells it to take off. While

TAXI DRIVER Practical analysis : fiction film: paper 4-2

Travis hesitates, a man pulls the girl out of the cab and throws Travis a twenty-dollar bill, telling him to forget the incident. Travis seems unable to get the girl out of his mind, and he puts the bill in a place separate from the rest of his money. Travis takes Betsy to a porn film in Times Square. When Betsy realizes what the film is, she becomes disgusted and leaves. After this night, she refuses to take his calls and returns the flowers he sends her. Travis becomes angry and eventually storms into the Palantine office to confront Betsy in public, but there he is humiliated. The next scene shows Travis, back in his cab, pulling over to let a man out. But the unnamed passenger wants to stay in the cab to watch the silhouette of a woman in a window above. The passenger claims the woman is his wife and that she is sleeping with a black man. He goes on hysterically about shooting his wife with a .44 Magnum. Later, at the diner where the cabbies hang out, Travis pulls Wizard aside and tries to reach out to him, saying he's been feeling down and having bad ideas in his head. The only thing Wizard can tell him is that he is stuck as a taxi driver, that the job will become him. Travis seems to be losing his mind more and more. One day he absentmindedly runs his cab into a young prostitute, the same one who jumped into his cab before. Travis buys four guns from an underground dealer, saying that he is going to change his life. He wants to turn over a new leafto eat and drink more healthily, and to train his body. We see him doing push-ups and holding his fist out over an open flame, as if he is training for combat. Travis begins to track Palantine. He goes to his rallies and watches him on television. He arouses suspicion by talking to a Secret Service agent at one of the rallies. Travis's speech becomes more disjointed and repetitive, especially when he is alone. He practices pulling out his gun in the mirror, saying "You talkin' to me?" One night he stops at a convenience store. When a young black man comes in and tries to stick up the store, Travis shoots and kills him. The

TAXI DRIVER Practical analysis : fiction film: paper 4-2

shooting has no consequences for Travis because the convenience store owner just thanks him and then starts beating the dead man. Travis continues to track Palantine, and he writes a letter to his parents. They know nothing about where their son is or what he does. Travis finally searches for Iris, the young prostitute he has seen twice before. He tries to pay Sport, her pimp, for time with her. Iris tries to seduce Travis, but he refuses to have sex with her. Instead, he asks her why she doesn't leave her job. He has coffee with her the next day and again tries to convince her to leave Sport. She says she'll think about it, and that she dreams of going to a commune in Vermont. She asks Travis to go with her, but he says he has more important plans. Iris goes back to Sport to tell him she's unhappy, but Sport is seductive and romantic and convinces Iris to stay. On the final day of the film's action Travis prepares to leave the house. First, he burns all the flowers he bought for Betsy, and then he writes a note for Iris, enclosing $500 so she can go to Vermont. He writes that by the time she reads the letter, he will be dead. He goes to a Palantine rally with his hair shaved into a Mohawk. His intention to assassinate Palantine becomes clear. Soon, though, Secret Service agents spot him and pursue him. Since his plan has failed, he goes instead to Iris's building. There, in a long, bloody shootout, he kills Sport, the man who rents out Iris's rooms, and a man who was about to visit Iris. When Travis tries to shoot himself, he realizes that he has

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run out of bullets. As the police rush in, he puts his hand to his head and pretends to shoot himself. The film moves forward by a few months. Travis has become a hero of sorts for saving Iris. We hear Iris's father reading a letter he has written Travis, thanking him for sending Iris home. The camera pans across all the newspaper articles that label Travis a hero. In the final scene, which is most likely a fantasy, we see Travis standing around with his cabbie friends when Betsy gets into his cab. She is clearly impressed by Travis's recent success and says she'll see him around. Travis never looks back at her but stares at her reflection in his rearview mirror. ANALYSIS OF MAJOR CHARACTERS

TRAVIS BICKLE Although we become well acquainted with Travis throughout Taxi Driver, his mental instability makes his actions unpredictable, and although Travis seems sympathetic, we never fully understand him. Travis is never part of the normal world. Though he initially wants to fit in and to be like other people, he is too mentally ill to act normally. Even at his best, at the beginning of the film, he can't sleep, he drinks heavily, pops pills, and spends his mornings in porn theaters. After Betsy rejects him, Travis becomes hysterical, violent, and obsessive, and from here descends into madness. He loses all self-awareness and deludes himself into believing that shooting a presidential candidate and then shooting himself is a heroic gesture. Travis changes from a wounded man into a hardened one, testing our sympathies and distancing himself through violence. Young Iris prevents Travis from turning into a monster by giving him a reason to look at the world outside himself. Even as Travis plots his heroic act of violence, he worries about how to save Iris. He believes he has cut himself off from all worldly feelings and

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that he is just training to be a soldier, but his concern for Iris suggests otherwise. Travis's many contradictions make him one of the great characters in film history. We never learn exactly what happened to Travis during Vietnam, and the rest of his past remains unexplored, so there's no way to explain why Travis has become the way he is. His war experiences must have influenced his character, acquainting him with violence and helping to turn him into a killer. Travis's anger wouldn't be so frightening if he wasn't able to transform himself into a warrior so efficiently. When Travis goes to kill Palantine, he sports a new Mohawk haircut. The 101st Airborne paratroopers made this a popular haircut for American soldiers to wear into combat when they flew in on D-Day in World War II, and Travis's Mohawk shows the influence of his experience in the army on his character. Travis has also been influenced by his parents and his upbringing, though we never catch any glimpses of this past. His obsession with and disgust for all things sexual are surely rooted in early experiences, and his many comments about destiny or being chosen by God suggest that he may have had a religious upbringing as Scorsese and Schrader did. We know little about Travis outside of his taxi, and he remains a mystery.

IRIS Iris sees her New York life as glamorous and independent, and although being a prostitute at such a young age is clearly damaging, she most likely views Travis's rescue of her as a mixed blessing. In New York, she believes people love and need her, even if those people are her pimp, Sport, and the johns that visit her. She takes pride in being streetwise, as we see during her breakfast with Travis when she asks if he is a "narc" and turns his questions back on him. Though she is willing to entertain the thought of leaving Sport, she is about as likely to go back to her parents on her own as Travis is.

TAXI DRIVER Practical analysis : fiction film: paper 4-2


Instead, she dreams of moving to Vermont. Though Travis has propriety, morality, and age on his side to justify his actions, his murders would have been more heroic had we not seen Iris dancing with Sport. Though he is her pimp, Sport comes across as comforting and romantic, and Iris clearly cares for him, for better or worse. Travis can neither see nor hear Iris and Sport in this scene. If he had seen it, he may have realized that his so-called heroism is most likely the least heroic in the eyes of the person he saves. After the murders, we don't hear from Iris again. She has disappeared back to Pittsburgh, and the only remaining sign of her is a grateful note her father wrote to Travis.

THE UNNAMED PASSENGER The appearance of the unnamed passenger and the violent plans he details mark a turning point in the film, and after his ride with Travis, Travis's own violent plans begin to take shape. Halfway through the film, Travis pulls over to a curb and sits with the unnamed passenger, waiting quietly then listening as the passenger reveals his violent and sexually monstrous plans to murder his unfaithful wife. The passenger directs Travis's gaze, as a director might, to the lighted window where his wife is, tells Travis his wife is sleeping with a nigger, then describes his plans for murder in gruesome detail. The passenger uses hateful language to describe the black man as well as what he'll do to his wife, giving voice too much of the hate Travis already feels. After this scene, nothing in the movie is the same. The passenger plants the idea of extreme violence in Travis's head. In just a few scenes, Travis will seek out a gun of his own, like the one the passenger has. Scorsese makes a cameo appearance in Taxi Driver as the unnamed passenger, and this is not the first time in film history that a director has acted in the movie in a small role that changes the course of the film. In Chinatown, a 1974 film starring Jack Nicholson, the director, Roman Polanski, has a small but influential cameo as well. Halfway through the film, Polanski appears briefly as a thug who slashes the hero's nose, changing the film from a light detective story to a story that takes place in a dangerous underworld. Similarly, Scorsese's part in Taxi Driver broaches the idea of twisted violence, which had not been present before.

TAXI DRIVER Practical analysis : fiction film: paper 4-2


Historical accounts of the making of Taxi Driver point out that another actor was slated to play the role of the passenger. When the actor got sick, Scorsese decided on the spur of the moment to play the role himself.


Several styles of camerawork in Taxi Driver reveal Travis's loneliness and his
distance from society. In general, the shots in Taxi Driver are slow and deliberate. After Travis applies to be a taxi driver, he walks out of the dispatcher garage, and as he does so, the camera pans from right to left across the screen as the cabs drive right, in the opposite direction. The other taxis seem to be going forward, in the direction we read and in the direction that picture narratives usually move. Travis walks the other way, and he is moving in the wrong direction even faster than the camera, so it takes a few moments for the camera to catch up to him. The shot indicates that something isn't quite right about Travis. Something about him isn't going the right way. Much later, when Travis has begun his descent into psychosis, the editing reveals his disjointed state. As Travis turns toward the camera and his voiceover reads a section from his diary ("Listen you fuckers, you screw heads. . . . "), the scene suddenly stops and repeats itself. The cut is so abrupt that it seems like a mistake. The shots are close enough together that we can tell that the two takes are not different, and that the same shot is shown twice in a row. Travis repeats himself obsessively in the "You talking'

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to me" speech, and here the film itself adopts that same method. The double shot shows that Travis does not repeat himself for practice, as we might, but that each time he erases what came before. Practice, by definition, involves improving on each additional effort, but Travis acts as if the previous attempts never happened. This editing technique of repetition and replacement gives us a glimpse into Travis's quickly sinking mental state.

Scorsese has said he believes that the most important scene in Taxi Driver is the one showing Travis on a payphone in a hallway, trying to speak to Betsy. As this one-sided conversation takes place, the camera moves from Travis to a shot of an empty hallway around the corner. No people or motion fill the shot, and the hallway has no visual elements to attract the eye. This camera move prevents us from looking at Travis in his shame at losing Betsy, and the fact that neither participant in the phone conversation is visible conveys the fact that no real communication is taking place. The hallway suggests the path the film will take from this point on. Soon after this conversation, Travis changes from any lonely man to "God's lonely man," on a path toward what he views as his destinya path as straight and narrow as the hallway. CONTEXT Martin Scorsese Director Martin Scorsese was born in New York City to Italian immigrant parents in 1942. He grew up in an observant Catholic family in Little Italy, and at a young age he wanted to be a priest. His dreams soon changed, however, and he attended New York University film school. After film school, Scorsese moved west to Hollywood. Roger Corman, a pulp movie director and producer, hired him to direct Boxcar Bertha in 1972. Scorsese's first collaboration with Robert De Niro, who plays Travis in Taxi Driver, was on Mean Streets (1974), a film about Catholic Italian-Americans in Little Italy that was rooted in Scorsese's own childhood experiences. The next film Scorsese directed was Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, for which Ellen Burstyn won a Best Actress Academy Award, the same year that Robert De Niro won Best Supporting Actor for his role in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part II. These Academy Awards helped Scorsese raise the funds to make Taxi Driver in 1976. The film received huge critical acclaim, cementing Scorsese's reputation as a major director. In addition to Taxi Driver, Scorsese has directed over twenty-five films, including the documentary Italianamerican (1974), the highly controversial The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and, more recently, the popular Goodfellas (1990) and Gangs of New York (2002). Paul Schrader

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Taxi Driver elevated Scorsese's status as a director, and it assured Paul Schrader's reputation as a major screenwriter. In the mid-1970s, Schrader was an up-and-coming screenwriter whose first screenplay, The Yakuza (1975), was considered a success even though the film had not performed well financially. Taxi Driver's success bolstered Schrader's career and ensured his place in the Hollywood community. Although some scenes in Taxi Driver were influenced by the actors, the film follows Schrader's screenplay closely, more so than Scorsese has followed his other films' screenplays. Many of Schrader's later screenplays deal, like Taxi Driver, with one man's loneliness and alienation, including American Gigolo (1990) and the more recent Bringing Out the Dead (1999), which is in many ways an update and homage to Taxi Driver. Like Scorsese, Schrader grew up in a religious household. He did not see a film until his late teens, so his influences are more literary than cinematic. While writing Taxi Driver, he was under the spell of existentialist novels such as Albert Camus's The Stranger and earlier portraits of loneliness such as Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground.

"film school brats Scorsese made Taxi Driver in the mid-1970s, a decade famous for its diverse and innovative films. The 1970s produced a group of directors, sometimes called the "film school brats," that included Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, and Brian de Palma. These men were young Americans who had studied European filmmakers at film school, and they were also the first generation of filmmakers to have grown up watching television. Their movies feature close attention to technical detail, while demonstrating an encyclopedic knowledge of film and television history. At the same time, their films were not just art house pictures but huge box office successes, funded by Hollywood.

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The fall of the Hollywood studio system at the end of the 1950s, combined with the various political upheavals of the 1960s, including the sexual revolution, the anti-Vietnam movement, and the civil rights movement, made predicting the public's taste increasingly difficult. During the early 1970s the largest studios lost over $500 million. They knew their methods of attracting audiences, which included using big name stars, making highbudget musicals, and releasing films based on popular novels, had become outdated. Studios became open to giving money to young and unknown directors who could make more original and risky movies. Taxi Driver centers on a racist, sociopathic, and violent protagonist and features a twelve-yearold prostitute, but at the time of its release it was a popular, well-received film. The movie was critically acclaimed in the United States, received four Oscar nominations, and did even better financially in Europe. Taxi Driver immortalizes New York City in the 1970s, a city vastly different from the New York we know today. The city's filth is exaggerated in the film partly because it is seen through Travis Bickle's skewed perspective, but during 1975, when the movie was filmed, New York was literally a filthy city. New York nearly filed for bankruptcy in 1974, so when the New York City trash collectors went on strike in the summer of 1975, causing the streets to fill with warm garbage, the city didn't have the funds to fix the problem. One of the promises Jimmy Carter made when campaigning for the presidency, which he won in 1976, was that he would make sure New York City wouldn't have to file for bankruptcy. Taxi Driver presents a true-to-life portrait of what Manhattan once was. Times Square was filled with peep shows and prostitutes, and during the summer of 1975, when the film takes place, the country was in the middle of a presidential campaign where one of the main issues was moving beyond the Vietnam War, which had officially ended only in 1973. We can easily imagine an ex-marine in New York being disgusted by the filth, finding the politicians who are supposed to help him to be artificial, and feeling that he needs to approach the city as he would a special combat mission. MARTIN SCORSESE AS DIRECTOR Martin Scorsese is a true artist. In Taxi Driver, arguably his greatest achievement, he develops ways to examine the nuances of Travis Bickle and provides a masterful examination of the themes prevalent in much of his work: extreme mental states, isolation, loneliness and degradation. Throughout his extensive and diverse body of work, he succeeds in realising his distinct cinematic visions because of the techniques that he employs and the artistic choices that he makes. The audience is encouraged to think hard in Taxi Driver as irony, original use of genre archetypes and moral ambiguity, saturate the screen. Throughout Scorseses body of work, a fondness of exploring the depraved fringes of humanity is evident. An

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exploration of extreme mental states has emerged in his body of work through his choices of subject matter. Firstly, Scorsese uses characters who by their nature are unstable or in someway outcast from the world in which they inhabit. In Taxi Driver however, Scorsese selects Travis bickle as a device to explore a more introverted and perhaps more brooding psychopath than characters in his other film. The unstable Travis is the focus and pure concentration of Scorseses ideas concerning the themes of loneliness and isolation. In Travis own words;Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man. Gods lonely man and his extremely unstable state of mind is skillfully brought to life by De Niro and Scorsese. Paul Schraders script and De Niros brilliant skills as a minimalist method actor, ensure that these explorations of the dark side of the human condition impact greatly on the audience. It is said that Scorsese allowed De Niro to improvise in the much revered speech in the mirror sequence; You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin'-- You talkin' to me? Well I'm the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you're talking to? The narcissistic cold ferocity and the obsessive rage present in this mirror sequence is then heightened by Scorseses use of an editing trick. Like a software glitch, Travis repeats his mantra. When he falters, the three second cut doubles over; Listen all you screwheads, you fuckers. Similarly, Scorseses visual tricks of the trade also enhance the existential aspects of Schraders narrative. For example, the graphic shootout sequence at the end of the film is enhanced by frequent slow motion, point of view shots and dull expressionist lighting that contribute to its surreal, ethereal, strong impact violence. After the carnage, Scorsese employs a visually striking yet magnificent tracking shot that glides down through the brothel, assessing the damage. Scorseses personal approach is also strongly evident in the way that he juxtaposes elements from classic Hollywood genres to deepen Taxi Drivers effect. Firstly, the use of the iconic composer Bernard Hitchcocks Psycho Herrmann, eludes to elements of the horror genre and even exploitation films. Much of the time inside the taxi cab is scored with soft jazz, most notably a saxophone that follows Travis throughout the film.

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Generally, the saxophone is widely used to establish a smooth sensual tone in film. This has an ironic effect, contrasting the pressure and tension that Travis feels about the underbelly of New York, with bubbly laid back mood music. Scorsese and Herrmanns choice of instrument also fuels a sense of mystery and ambivalence in the audiences perception of Travis Bickle. Under a different light, perhaps the use of the saxophone hints at the violent and sexually exploitative grind house films popular at the time. Travis even attends disreputable movie theaters that showed these exploitation films highlighting even more irony in Taxi Drivers score! Also indicative of the horror genre, the score has moments of violence that disturb the ordinary smoothness of the jazz and jolt the audience. For example, Herrmann punctures the sound scape with stringed instruments and drums when Travis nearly runs over Iris in his taxi. Interestingly, Herrmann continues the change while they retain eye contact, suggesting more than just a close call. Very much a lone gunman Travis often resembles a cowboy. This is evident in the scene where he prepares his weapons for battle, constructing quickdraw devices to kill his enemy faster and also when he polishes his large boots. The taxi cab could also be seen as his trusty horse as he drives around the dangerous New York streets like a

marshal patrolling a township. Apart from the archetypal interplay within Taxi Driver, another striking element of the film is the uncertainty and ambivalence that audience is left with at its conclusion. Should Travis Bickle be considered a hero? Or a reprehensible psychopath? Scorsese fuels these

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ideas by juxtaposing religious symbolism as well as images of degradation and perversion. On the one hand, Travis could be seen as an avenging angel in continuation with the theme of the lone gunman an urban soldier, willing to tear down the filth that seems to reign unchecked within his dark environment: Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit. Here is a man who stood up. Here is. The final bloodbath against the underbelly of New York is very much Travis catharsis. In this scene it is Scorseses Catholic upbringing that predominantly shines through. Ideas concerning sacrifice, death and rebirth are all demonstrated in various ways by Scorsese. Firstly, Travis Mohawk hair cut that brings on the final act, becomes a kind of militaristic but also ritualistic mark on his body - signalling an impending and inevitable crusade. Also, the brothel becomes a crucible or sacrificial altar where the bodies of the evil are scourged and sacrificed and their souls are cleansed and purged. Christian ideas concerning redemption after crucifixion and death also fit thematically within Travis violent bloodbath. Perhaps the surreal movement of the camera after the destruction could well be mimicking the movement of a soul leaving its hostOn the other hand, a theme of degradation also saturates screen time. When Travis takes Betsy out on a date, he brings her to a grindhouse a pornographic cinema that he frequents. When Betsy leaves in disgust onto the street, the camera swings around and Betsy is compared, right alongside a prostitute. This is significant as it signals the beginning of Betsys transition from the ideal woman in Travis mind too. I realise now how much she's just like the others, cold and distant This coupled with her final rejection of him, primes the psychotic time bomb. This is fully realised in the accompanying montage of Travis training his body and mind for his war on filth; June twenty-ninth. I gotta get in shape now. Too much sitting has ruined my body. Too much abuse has gone on for too long. From now on it'll be fifty pushups each morning. Fifty pull-ups. There will be no more pills, no more destroyers of my body. From now on it'll be total organization. Every muscle must be tight.

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However degraded and insane he is however, a jilted morality still exists inside him. In another effort to move the audience into cerebral territory, Scorsese moves the focus from Betsy to the twelve year-old prostitute, Iris. Iris becomes the lynchpin of Travis desire to act the new symbol for him to idealize and obsess over. Although he does find some kind of redemption by saving Iris, it could still be seen as a tongue in cheek, empty or ironic redemption. Scorsese paints a cynical view of the media with a simple tracking shot over some newspaper articles proclaiming a hero. Also, hints at Travis apparently unwavering psychosis are present all with a simple glance at the mirror in his cab an ethereal ping heightening the audiences awareness that all is not well inside his deranged mind. Food for thought. Overall, Taxi Driver remains as powerful a film today since its 1976 release. Scorsese has created a revolutionary and brooding masterpiece full of depth - a film still very much open to interpretation. He successfully works his themes of loneliness, isolation and degradation into Travis Bickles complex psychological landscape as well as his actions. Above all, Scorsese radiates an understanding of how to make his audience think. As a result, Taxi Driver is full of irony, innovation and a certain homage to the films and genres that screened before it. INTERPRETATIONS OF THE ENDING "There has been much discussion about the ending, in which we see newspaper clippings about Travis's 'heroism' of saving Iris, and then Betsy gets into his cab and seems to give him admiration instead of her earlier disgust. Is this a fantasy scene? Did Travis survive the shoot-out? Are we experiencing his dying thoughts? Can the sequence be accepted as literally true? ... I am not sure there can be an answer to these questions. The end sequence plays like music, not drama: It completes the story on an emotional, not a literal, level. We end not on carnage but on redemption, which is the goal of so many of Scorsese's characters." -Roger Ebert"Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader append the perfect conclusion to Taxi Driver. Steeped in irony, the five-minute epilogue underscores the vagaries of fate. The media builds Bickle into a hero, when, had he been a little quicker drawing his gun against Senator Palantine, he would have been revealed as an assassin. As the film closes, the misanthrope has been embraced as the model citizensomeone who takes on pimps, drug dealers, and mobsters to save one little girl."

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-James Berardinelli-

Robert De Niro Cybill Shepherd Jodie Foster Peter Boyle Harvey Keitel Leonard Harris Albert Brooks Victor Argo Nat Grant Steven Prince Martin Scorsese Travis Bickle Betsy "Easy" (Iris Steensma) "Wizard" "Sport" (Matthew Higgins) Senator Charles Palantine Tom grocery store owner stickup man illegal gun salesman "Easy Andy" passenger in Travis's taxi -- also, en cameo Scorsese appears lounging on the steps and smoking, in Cybill Shepherd's first scene.

The film score by Bernard Herrmann contrasts deep, sleazy noises representing the "scum" that Travis sees all over the city with the saxophone, a musical counterpart of Travis, creating a mellifluously disenchanted troubadour. The opposing noises in the soundtrack - gritty little harp figures - are as hard as shards of steel as well as a jazz drum-kit placing the drama in the city indicative of loneliness while surrounded by people. Deep brass and woodwind are also evident. The drumbeat has a wild-eyed martial air charting the pressure on Bickle, who is increasingly oppressed by the corruption around him. Harp, drum and sax play extremely significant roles in all this music.

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Bernard Hermann's soundtrack, which he wrote shortly before his death, turns Travis's ordinary life into what are sometimes a heroic epic, sometimes a horror film, and other times no more than just another New York story. Two major themes dominate the score of Taxi Driver. The first features an eightbar melodic sighing of a solo saxophone. The theme evokes the lonely melancholy of an individual alienated from his environment. The smooth, jazzy tones of the saxophone also complement New York's urban terrain, which we see as Travis passes through the various neighborhoods of the city in his taxi. The theme varies somewhat, particularly in tempo, but it follows Travis in his taxi as he drives his often sordid passengers around the city. Travis's psychotic tendencies shine through in a second theme, characterized by an unresolved, dissonant chord played by trumpets over rhythmic snare drums. At various points in the movie, a harp joins the trumpets and snare. At the beginning of the movie, the trumpets punctuate moments that augur Travis's instability, such as when he hits Iris with his car. While Travis descends gradually into psychosis, this theme becomes dominant in the score. The unresolved chords of the blaring trumpets echo Travis's feelings of discord with the city, and the snare drums propel him to action. The unresolved quality of this theme is characteristic of several Hitchcock movie scores, particularly that of Vertigo, which Hermann also composed. These two themes clash with one another in the climactic shootout at the end of the movie, which is originally dominated by the discord of the

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trumpets playing over an arpeggio in the harp which is evoking an atmosphere of surreality around the nightmarish scene. As the camera pans from above across the carnage of the shootout, the trumpets continue to blare, bearing witness to the horror of Travis's actions. They pierce the silence like an alarm, which segues nicely to the imagined sirens of the police cars outside. When the camera pulls away from the upstairs room with the corpses and descends the staircase, the saxophone theme blends with the trumpets, slowed down and played rhythmically out of joint, to emphasize Travis's transformation from a lonely taxi driver into a murderer. This theme serves as a lyric contemplation of Travis's deranged story. THEMES, MOTIFS, AND SYMBOLS Themes: Predetermined versus Self-directed Fate: Travis frequently changes his view of whether he is in control of his destiny or whether his destiny is predetermined. In the beginning of the film, Travis complains about being lonely and not having any place to go. He tries to control his own fate and change his situation by getting a job and finding a girl. When Travis's plans don't turn out the way he hoped, he shifts the blame away from himself by professing a belief in predestination, claiming he fails because he is meant to be "God's lonely man." By the second half of the movie, Travis has given up on the idea that he has any control over what he does. When he leaves his apartment with the plan of killing Palantine and himself, he notes that this is his destiny and that he never had any choice. Yet he fails in his goal of shooting the candidate, which suggests that Travis's theory about destiny is flawed. Travis creates a new fate for himself by killing Iris's protectors, a decision he makes on his own. Travis, not God, creates this destiny. Other characters, such as Iris and Wizard, have their own views about how they might change their destinies. Wizard adheres to a more passive philosophy of life, as he tells Travis he'll always be a taxi driver no matter what he does. Travis does indeed remain a taxi driver, which suggests that he may not have as much power over his fate as we might expect. Iris is powerless in many ways, and while her fate may not be predetermined, it is certainly influenced by other people. Sport manipulates and uses her, refusing her the freedom of choice, and Travis forces freedom on her whether she wants it or not. Though Iris came to New York in an act of independence, by the end of the film she has lost control of her destiny. Loneliness in Crowds Among the millions of people in New York City, meaningful personal connections can be few and far between, and in Taxi Driver we see several

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cases of such urban isolation. Travis resents that the people in his cab pretend he doesn't exist, and in a way, New York itself is an extension of the little world of the taxi: The city is full of people who don't pay attention to each other and who pretend Travis isn't there. Travis isn't the only lonely character in the film. Tom and Betsy flirt with each other, but they don't seem to share a true personal connection. Betsy is lonely enough to consider a date with Travis, a stranger who approaches her from the street. Wizard and the other cabbies congregate at an all-night diner, hinting that they don't have families or stable home lives. The only true relationship in the film is between Sport and Iris, and that relationship is based on illegal exploitation. Taxi Driver contains many shots of crowds, each person going in his or her own direction. To some extent, this view of New York reflects Travis's warped, isolated perspective, but he is not alone in feeling lonely. The Glorification of Violence Taxi Driver's surprise ending portrays society's glorification of Travis's violence. Instead of dying in the shootout, Travis survives and becomes a local hero, despite having murdered several people in cold blood. The film shows several press clippings hanging on the wall of Travis's room as well as a thankful letter written by Iris's parents. Ironically, Travis, the perpetual social outsider, becomes celebrated in society by violating its laws. The lawabiding Travis was invisible, but the murderous Travis is a hero. In a way, this plot twist validates Travis's criticisms of New York society, which tolerates and even praises violent criminal behavior. Only by acting violently could Travis escape the loneliness that seemed to be his fate. Motifs: The Taxi The windshield of the taxi is the lens through which Travis views the city, and the taxi itself is a vehicle of loneliness and isolation. As the opening credits role, Travis drives his taxi through the city in the rain. The lights of the city are blurred through the rain on the windshield until the wipers reveal the scene. For the second time, the rain blurs the scene through the windshield, but this time the wipers do not make everything clear again. This blurry view suggests that Travis's view of the city and the world is skewed. Travis never sees the world as it actually is. Because his perspective is warped by mental illness, the taxi, in a way, protects him from the outside world. Inside the taxi, Travis isn't vulnerable to jealous men, beautiful women, and his own angry rages. Outside, the world is full of danger. Within the taxi, Travis is safer, but he must endure isolation even when he has passengers. Passengers often pretend Travis doesn't exist, and personal connections are rarely, if ever, attempted. Racism

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Though Travis never says anything overtly racist, besides using the word "spook" in his diary, his racism is clear from the way he looks at the black

people around him. Travis notices black men everywhere, revealing a deepseated fear and hatred of black men in particular. The constant shots of groups of black people and black men reveal Travis's obsession. The camera focuses on the black people walking through the streets or sitting in the diner as if they are from outer space. Black people are often shot in slow motion, showing that Travis's gaze lingers on them. He is fascinated with what he hates. Travis's obsession separates him from society, because for the most part the people around Travis accept what goes on. While Wizard and Doughboy are happy to sit around with Charlie T, Travis is uncomfortable. When he leaves the diner with Wizard, Travis looks back at Charlie T, who pretends to shoot Travis with a gun he makes out of his hand. Travis is disturbed by this gesture. Travis also seems jealous of black men. He focuses on the black couple dancing when he watches American Bandstand, as if he is not able to believe that they can be happy while he must be alone. Only two characters in the film share Travis's racism. The first is the unnamed passenger, who wants to kill his wife for having slept with a "nigger." The passenger gives voice to words Travis thinks but did not have the courage to say, which is why the passenger has so much influence over Travis. Some critics argue that the passenger is an object of Travis's imagination, representing the deepest recesses of his psyche. The other racist character is the man who runs the convenience store. When Travis shoots the young black man who is robbing the convenience store, he worries about the consequences of having used an unlicensed gun. The man

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behind the counter tells Travis not to worry about it, and he beats the dead man with a crowbar. Travis feels justified in his racism because a few other people share it, even though their feelings probably do not resemble his. In the original screenplay, all the people Travis kills at the end of the film were written as black. Scorsese changed this aspect of the story because he believed racism to that extreme would be too controversial. Television Images on television reveal to Travis an alternate reality he himself cannot take part in, where relationships between people are possible. Unlike the actors in the porn films Travis frequents, the people on television seem real to him, and he both envies and resents them. When Travis watches television near the end of the film, he watches it with a gun in his hand, occasionally aiming it at the screen. He watches American Bandstand just after he kills the black man who robs the convenience store. The first image he sees on the screen is a close-up of a young and happy-looking black couple. We get an extended view of the dance floor as the camera zooms into the screen. Amidst all the slow-dancing couples there is one pair of shoes without anyone in them. Travis resembles those shoes not only because he is single, but also because he is not even there. He observes other people's happiness through the lens of television. Later, Travis watches a soap opera conversation between a husband and wife, which, unlike American Bandstand, was shot specifically for this film. The wife is leaving her husband for her lover. Instead of pointing his gun at the television, Travis tilts the table it rests on until it topples, and the monitor shatters. When the television breaks, so does what's left of Travis's selfcontrol. He has broken his only window onto outside relationships. He puts his head into his hands and rocks back and forth hysterically. At the end of the film, Travis's room post-shoot out contains a new television to replace the old one, indicating that Travis is trying to make a fresh start. Symbols Water Travis hates the filth of New York City in the summer, and he wishes for a great rain to wash it all away. His definition of filth includes not only the smell of the city or the garbage, but also the people who live in the city, including the black people in Harlem and the prostitutes and hippies in Times Square. In one of his first diary entries, Travis expresses gratitude for a rain that has left the city slightly cleaner than before, but he adds that someday a "real" rain will fall to clean up the city. By this Travis is imagining an apocalyptic flood, one that will separate the people he thinks should be redeemed from those who are not worthy or clean enough. Water takes on the qualities of a redemptive, baptizing force when Travis gives a ride to a prostitute and a john and goes out of his way to drive his cab through an

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open fire hydrant. He bathes the exterior and interior of his car, both of which have been corrupted by the passengers. Guns The film is full of guns. Travis views them with a certain reverence, and the first and last shots of the .44 Magnum are slow close-ups panning from the handle to the barrel. Guns take on a powerful significance in Travis's emotional life. He buys his guns only after having been rejected by Betsy, and in a way they help him to be potent after his failure at courting her. Fake guns have significance as well. Travis and other male characters frequently use hand motions to simulate shooting. The hand has the power to insult and offend, but no power to do any physical harm. Charlie T is the first person to make this hand gesture at Travis, accompanied by a verbal shooting noise, even before Travis buys his guns. Later, Sport makes the same motion when Travis visits Iris. These men mock Travis when they pretend to shoot him, and he is put off by their gestures. After the final shootout, when Travis has no bullets left and the police arrive, Travis puts his hand to his head and pretends to shoot himself. In his maniacal state, he seems to believe this gesture will actually work. The $20 Bill When Travis first encounters Iris, she enters his cab and is pulled out by Sport, who tosses Travis a $20 bill to keep him quiet. Travis takes the money, but he leaves it on the front seat, separate from the rest of his cash. Subsequently, whenever Travis sees the folded bill, he remembers Iris, the filth of the city, and his own silence. For Travis, the bill symbolizes the city's corruption, where anyone can be bought, like a prostitute, for the right price. The money serves as a constant reminder of his own participation in Iris's situation, and it eventually spurs him to action. He is ashamed that he took the money in the first place, and his shame motivates his later actions. When Travis visits Iris in her room, he uses this bill to pay for his time with her. He returns the money to the man it came from in an attempt to atone for his previous inaction, the first step in his new role as Iris's liberator. INFLUENCES One of the benchmarks of 1970s American films is the extent to which they wear their previous influences on their sleeves. Their overt acknowledgement of influences is partly a symptom of postmodernism, a style more interested in portraying copies in a self-conscious and original way than in creating something entirely original. It was also a product of the directors' having grown up in the age of television, where one could watch the same films on re-runs over and over. Taxi Driver has a long roster of cinematic, literary, and real life influences of its own, and below is a partial

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catalogue explaining them. The cinematic influences appear mainly in Scorsese's direction, while the literary influences were written into the screenplay by Paul Schrader. The complex web of influences suggests that Taxi Driver is not simply a portrait of random violence and debauched mental illness, but rather a medley of carefully considered responses to previous artistic visions of similar subjects. Films Taxi Driver's plot pays homage to the 1956 John Ford film The Searchers, starring John Wayne as Ethan Edwards. John Wayne was the quintessential hero for children growing up in the 1950s, and The Searchers may have been especially influential because Wayne's character is neither heroic nor admirable. The film's influence was wide-reaching, also inspiring the plot for George Lucas's Star Wars (1977), which is surprising given that Star Wars and Taxi Driver have little else in common. The similarities between Travis and Ethan are extensive. Both Travis and Ethan are loners who do not quite fit into society. In Taxi Driver, Travis appears at the beginning of the film several years after he has been discharged from his service in the Vietnam War. In The Searchers, John Ford begins the film several years after the end of the Civil War, a war in which Ethan has fought for the losing side, the South. Ethan makes no explanation for what he's been doing in the intervening years. Society considers both Travis and Ethan heroic, even though they kill many innocent people in the course of their heroic actions. Ethan thinks nothing of massacring Indians and of trying to eliminate their food supply by killing buffalo. Travis kills everyone involved in Iris's life, as well as a black man trying to rob a convenience store. Ethan has an obsessive hatred for Indians, Travis for black people. Ethan is on a mission to rescue his niece from Indians, and Travis devotes his energy to saving Iris from her sexual custody. In both cases the young woman in question has no interest in being rescued, and we are denied her point of view once she is supposedly saved. The Indians have become Debbie's people. Similarly, Iris escaped an unhappy home life to live in the glamorous city where she is the favorite of her pimp, Sport. The styles of these two films, however, are very different. Whereas Ethan is distant and hard to understand, we are uncomfortably close to Travis and his daily habits. The Searchers influenced Taxi Driver's plot and some of its themes, but this film is only the beginning of Scorsese's references to previous films. Scorsese has stated that Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956) inspired his pointof-view shots for Travis. The opening shot of Travis's eyes may come from one of many films, including The Tales of Hoffman (1951), The Conformist (1970), In a Lonely Place (1950), or Vertigo (1958). The scene in which Travis stares at his Alka-Seltzer is lifted straight from Jean-Luc Goddard's close-up of the surface of a cup of coffee in 2 or 3 Things I Know about Her (1967).

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Scorsese's cameo as the unnamed passenger marks a turning point in the plot just as Roman Polanskis cameo does in Chinatown. Literature Just as The Searchers influenced Taxi Driver's structure, Notes from Underground, the 1864 novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, influenced the development of Travis's character. Notes from Underground is told in the form of a diary. The notes that the unnamed protagonist writes are confused and contradictory memoirs that describe his alienation from modern society. Like Taxi Driver, Notes centers on an unreliable, lonely narrator. Reading spurs the protagonist's disgust and hatred for society, just as driving around the worst areas of the city feeds Travis's hatred. The book even contains a similar plot element to Taxi Driver: the protagonist of Notes tries to save a young prostitute in the second half of the novel. Taxi Driver also has more recent literary influences, including the French existentialist novels of the 1950s, such as Albert Camus's The Stranger and Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea. Travis resembles an existential hero in that he cannot summon normal emotions about day-to-day occurrences. Unlike the characters from Nausea or Notes from Underground, whose lives are characterized by an almost obsessive inaction, Travis's crises propel him to violence, which Schrader believes to be a distinctly American reaction to obsession and loneliness.

Historical Travis's efforts to save Iris were influenced by The Searchers and Notes from Underground, but his attempt to assassinate the presidential candidate Palantine was inspired by current events. In 1972, Arthur Bremer tried and failed to assassinate presidential candidate and Governor George C. Wallace. Bremer, a young loner who lived in a rented room, had been following Wallace closely for several weeks. The choreography of his attempted assassination is almost identical to that portrayed in the movie. As Wallace was walking by, Bremer reached into the crowd with a gun and shot at the candidate. Bremer paralyzed Wallace, but security guards prevented him from doing any more damage. Bremer, like Travis, kept a detailed journal, and one of his motivations for trying to kill the candidate was his own failed relationship with a young girl. Taglines On every street in every city, there's a nobody who dreams of being a somebody. He's a lonely forgotten man desperate to prove that he's alive.

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Cannes Film Festival New York Film Award BAFTA Award BAFTA Award BAFTA Film Anthony Asquith Critics Palme d'Or Circle Best Actor (Robert De Niro) Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jodie Foster) Best Newcomer (Jodie Foster) Award Music -(Bernard Herrmann)

Academy Award Academy Award Academy Award Academy Award BAFTA Award BAFTA Award DGA Award Golden Globe Award Grammy Award BAFTA Award Golden Globe Award WGA Award Best Picture Best Actor (Robert De Niro) Best Supporting Actress Foster) Original Music Score Herrmann) Best Film Direction (Martin Scorsese) Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (Martin Scorsese) Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama (Robert De Niro) Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture (Bernard Herrmann) Best Editing (Marcia Lucas, Tom Rolf, Melvin Shapiro) Best Screenplay - Motion Picture (Paul Schrader) Best Drama Written Directly for the (Jodie


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Screen (Paul Schrader)

Minat Terkait