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The 8 Best Things ‘Taxi Driver’ Super-Fan Quentin Tarantino Has Said About Martin Scorsese’s Enduring Classic

The 8 Best Things 'Taxi Driver' Super-Fan Quentin Tarantino Has Said About Martin Scorsese's Enduring Classic

If you can even fathom such a fact, this year marks the fortieth anniversary of Martin Scorsese’s legendary “Taxi Driver” since its initial release in 1976. Since then, the film has left a mark on the face of cinema, thanks to the incredibly complex and troubled character that was Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle. Scorsese shook fans and critics alike with his electrifying psychological thriller, leaving no individual in the audience unmoved by what they had witnessed. Forty years later, the film has set a standard in the world of filmmaking and remains a classic, influencing the next wave of filmmakers, including the auteur Quentin Tarantino himself, a self-professed mega fan of the film.
Today, the film’s legendary team will reunite to celebrate its fortieth birthday (which was technically in February) at the Tribeca Film Festival. Scorsese will appear at a special screening, along with his gang of actors, including De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd and Michael Phillips, along with screenwriter Paul Schrader, to celebrate the legacy and impact of the film. The venue for such an event couldn’t be a better fit, as they gather in the film’s home of New York City.

Celebrate with Scorsese and his cast with the film’s ultimate fanboy, Quentin Tarantino, as we’ve gathered the filmmaker’s best quotes about what exactly makes “Taxi Driver” such a landmark in cinema, thanks to these two wonderful videos on the subject. Check them out below.

READ MORE: Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster Will Celebrate ‘Taxi Driver’ Anniversary at Tribeca

Not only was the film unique, but it was also untouchable.

“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. 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 that I don’t know if anyone will ever quite have the run of films that he had in the 70s leading into the 80s.”

Even Brian De Palma mused about his respect for Scorsese.

“Truth be told, actually, my favorite director of the Movie Brats was not Scorsese. Loved him. But my favorite director of the Movie Brats was Brian de Palma. I actually met De Palma right after I’d done ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and I was very beside myself. And I was sitting there talking to him about cinema and stuff, and he talked about the friendly competition that he would enjoy with Scorsese.

He talked about making ‘Scarface’ and, you know, he’s making this epic and thinks he’s doing one of his best works ever. And during the shooting of ‘Scarface,’ ‘Raging Bull’ comes out. And so he goes and sees ‘Raging Bull’ at the theater, and it just starts off with that opening credits shot. Of that classical music playing and the big, wide shot of the ring and Jake Lamada there just bouncing in slow motion in his robe. And he [said], ‘No matter what you do, no matter how good you are, there’s always Scorsese. There’s always Scorsese challenging you right there.’ And that was Scorsese at this time.”

There’s something about Travis…

“One of the things about ‘Taxi Driver’, to me, [that] is just so amazing, is not only is it this wonderful character study of this – to put it lightly – troubled individual… What’s so fascinating about the character study is it truly puts you in the point of the view of this man. If you’ve ever been lonely and lived in a ghetto area, it’s easy to feel Travis Bickle’s kind of feelings of ‘all alone me’ versus ‘my environment.’ And the movie actually encourages that kind of empathy with a very questionable character. You see through his eyes so strongly.”

Tarantino even criticizes the criticism the film received upon its release.

“One of the criticisms that was labeled 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. 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. He flinches away from them at all times. And since you are looking through his eyes, you do as well. One of things that actually could be crippling from the movie, thematically, you could even say it’s the film’s big flaw. Which, actually, by the end of the movie, doesn’t turn out to be.”

Tarantino’s love for Harvey Keitel goes way back.

“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. 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. It just goes away. Not only that, you can’t imagine ‘Taxi Driver’ without Harvey Keitel. What would that be?”

Even the minor details of the film were deeply significant.

“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 favorite bits in the film, are the little scenes between Cybill Shepherd and Albert Brooks.

And when those moments happen… I think in the 70s, the first thing you thought of was ‘The Front Page’ because it has that kind of snappy pattern. But then later, it’s impossible now to watch it now all of a sudden without thinking [about] ‘Broadcast News’! As all of a sudden, showing up in Times Square, quick, witty scenes from Broadcast News’ have somehow inserted themselves into ‘Taxi Driver.’

And I think it’s obvious. For me, as a filmmaker, I’m a lover of turning on a dime, and that’s definitely a situation where that happens.”

Scorsese wasn’t going down without a fight.

“He made the film for Columbia [Pictures] and the MPAA slapped it with an X. And so Scorsese was now going to have to be faced with making a masterpiece that he thinks is perfect and having to slash his canvas. The people, or person at Columbia – I don’t have a clue who it is, or if this even happened at all – was unsympathetic. They didn’t care. They were just, ‘Just get an R. Just get an R. We don’t care how you do it. Just do it.’
And the legend goes that Scorsese stayed up all night drinking, getting drunk with a loaded gun. And his purpose was, in the morning, he was going to shoot the executive at Columbia for making him cut his masterpiece. And it turned out to be a vigil all night, as Scorsese sat there with a loaded gun in his lap. And some of his fellow filmmakers and friends came and talked to him and commiserated with him and tried to talk him out of it. And apparently this lasted all night long.
I’ve heard stories that literally, all of them grew up that night because they realized how serious Scorsese was at the prospect of what he was going to do. Well, apparently, what ended up happening, is by the end of the night, by truly, truly contemplating shooting the man and knowing he was going to do that, when that became such a reality, he did reach inside of himself to try and find one other thing he could do other than commit murder. And the idea that came to him was just to desaturate the color in the final shootout by two degrees. Turning what was candy apple blood red into a more burgundy blood. He did that in lieu of killing a man. And the film got its R.”

Tarantino can’t imagine making such a film of this caliber.

“…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.'”

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