You Talkin’ to Me?

Our national pastime is paranoia, not baseball. In the mid-1970s, when the Watergate revelations and a wave of conspiracy theories about JFK’s assassination fueled a mood of queasy distrust, the country hit its pre-9/11 nadir. Martin Scorsese’s chilling 1976 adaptation of Paul Schrader’s demonic script, Taxi Driver, channeled every ion of free-floating suspicion and anxiety into a Vietnam-vet cabbie prowling a broke, decaying New York City. Presented in a dazzling, newly restored print that shows off the film’s uncanny mix of sleek style (underscored by Bernard Herrmann’s knockout score) and sewer ambience, Taxi Driver reminds us that Robert De Niro was once America’s greatest living actor. Sporting the scariest Mohawk ever seen east of the Mississippi, and steeped in a bitter brew of resentment and frustration, his Travis Bickle leaps off the screen and into our nightmares. Schrader, for his part, was at a despairing low point; his impetus was personal, not political. “It was my first script, and it was written as self-therapy,” Schrader recalled not long ago. “It wasn’t really written to sell; it was written to exorcise certain things I was feeling and thinking.” Thirty-five years later, the film — especially in this new 35 mm print — - can still scare the shit out of the unwary moviegoer.
May 7-9, 7 p.m., 2011

 
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