Sunday, September 4, 2011

Not Talkin' to Me

I'd not seen this one before--much to the chagrin of many a person--and I've actually seen very little classic Scorsese. For me, Scorsese is The Last Waltz turned up loud. The others I've seen are Casino, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and Shine a Light). But, now that I list the films of his I've seen, I can tell you pacing and character are a problem for me with Scorsese films--save the music docs which are different beasts altogether. I did like Casino and The Aviator; thought Gangs was pretty; despised Departed.

I came to the film with very few expectations. I knew the classic "talkin' to me" line because I don't live in a cave and knew people were up in arms over Jodie Foster's child prostitute. I kind of gathered that the film would be gritty. Other than that, I had no clue what the film was about.

Now that I've seen it, I'm not sure what the film is about. I get that Bickle is a disturbed man; that's clear from the moment you see his face on screen. I get that the film depicts his perceived ascent to heroism and his plot to clean up New York. But I don't get who Bickle is and I don't think his particular brand of crazy is explored enough. I get the noir leanings and the ode to the gritty underbelly of NY (versus the intellectual love story that is the oft portrayed NY) and even the grindhouse nod of the shoot-out scene. What I don't get is why I'm supposed to care about this film. I don't get what it does that is supposed to make me want a poster on my wall (note: we do not have movie posters on our walls; we need the space for vintage circus posters) and declare my undying love of Marty. Overall, I felt robbed of information because the movie had enough time to give me this information (rather than, say, a shot of an empty hallway while Bickle is on the phone) and, given the voice-over diary entries and letters, ample opportunity. Bickle's psycho diary has to be the least interesting in the history of psycho diaries, by the way.

I can't say I disliked it really. But I certainly wouldn't recommend it and probably won't watch it again. I will say that this one is probably one to see before I died just because sooooooooo many people want to talk about it as a landmark in cinema.

And the book says: "We love Marty" with 7 films from the director (Mean Streets, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Casino, and The Departed in addition to Taxi Driver). Other than that, strangely, what I said above but with a good spin. Apparently, the book thinks it great that the film "proceeds like a film noir told from the perspective of an anonymous stranger standing at the corner of a murder scene, peering over the police tape at the shrouded body splayed on the street." I appreciate that aspect of noir quite a bit actually but this film asks more of the viewer than noir. I feel with noir the audience generally has enough information. Maybe it's just me? The book continues, "it's hard to say if Bickle's inadvertent triumph is actually a tragedy. Because the film has done such a successful job wobbling the moral compass, we're left desperately grappling for impossible answers." I wouldn't say the film wobbles any moral compass. Yes, Bickle saves a young girl from a troubling life and dire future but one good act does not make him a good man. He's still severely unstable, a murderer (of what, 4 men?), a stalker, an attempted assassin, and a general creep. That's a whole hell of a lot of the "not good" side of the morality scale with only "saved Iris" on the good side. That scale is not moving much less wobbling.

Tracy? You'd seen this one before and, I think, generally more tolerant of movies like this--can you tell me why I should care?


  1. Well, let me say I TOTALLY disagree with the book. I don't think that the point was to make the audience ask whether TB was a hero or not. It seems pretty clear to me that the movie thinks he isn't. We know all this stuff (stalking, porno theatre predilection [which, by the way, worst first date ever!], um, ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT), that the people who deem him a hero don't. Also, we're not sure why Iris ran away in the first place. Maybe it was from a situation that was bad in its own way. I thought the whole point was to question the existence of heroes at all--TB is just another version of Harvey Keitel. That's why I guess I was thinking it was pomo--it's not that TB can't be a hero in the traditional (modernist) sense, but rather that the category itself has become a simulacrum.

    Oh, and totally agree on the psycho diary fail.

  2. Yes and yes! re: 1st date and Iris's potentially bad pre-hooker situation.

    Ooooh.I like the existence of heroes at all being the point. I still don't love the movie but that makes it better. And, yeah, that's about as pomo as you can get especially considering the complete impotence of the people who should be heroes--Palantine doesn't actually *do* anything that we see and the police just stand frozen at the crime scene; they can only play at being heroes (simulacra) in the most cardboard sense.