What a strange world this is. Taxi Driver, a film that defines an era in NYC (as viewed through the lens of some absolutely brilliant but inwardly tortured filmmakers), is now readily available for viewing on Youtube, thanks to corporate sponsorship. The fact that the film is as vital and disturbing today as it was 33 years ago is indisputable, but what is also apparent is that it belongs to the special moment in American film (the “maverick” instant) where major studio films could be deeply disturbing and challenging, without resorting to the “indie” label that currently produces a necessary shield of critical affirmation and at least one major “name” who gets the project ink and attention.
If made today, the film would be considered “reckless” and “dangerous,” and without question racist and sexist. Hollywood in the Seventies was a stranger place, though, and the film was indeed made with mainstream dough for mainstream audiences. The fact that the chieftains and talents at the time indulged in "substances" also impacted the film in a brilliant fashion (cocaine then was what CGI is today, an insidious tool that could alternately overwhelm or in fact aid fine filmmaking, especially when the subject was any kind of paranoia). It is indeed a modern American masterpiece that I oddly look at these days as strangely “innocent” (although a guiltier movie never existed, on the level of existential guilt), perhaps because I was a child in the dirty, crime-ridden NYC that the film depicts and I long for that raucous time, in comparison to the current benign tourist paradise that the city has become (greetings from Bloomberg Beach). The film’s antihero is timeless, its situations are timeless, but its real-life location has vastly changed, and not wholly for the better.
In the meantime you can now watch the entire movie on YouTube, preceded and sporadically interrupted by car commercials (and ads for the Army — hey kids, become *just like* Travis…!). You have to sign in with your YT i.d. and password when the watch the movie since it is rated R, but you are also warned that “information about you maybe be collected when you view this page.” You wanna talk disturbing?