I recall watching my first Scorsese film. It was Goodfellas. I was in my preteens to teenage years. From that moment on, I became addicted to his films. I couldn’t get enough. I started watching everything I could find. I even watched The Big Shave. The one thing I will never forget was when I first watched Taxi Driver.
I was still in my preteen to early teenage years. I can still remember being drawn into Rober De Niro’s character, Travis’ awkward behavior. From his awkward approach of watching and stalking women from a distance to his conversations and demeaning behavior. It was the first time I ever really watched a character whose mental state was abnormal.
It had put an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach that made it hard for me to watch. Even though he was made to be the hero for saving the young girl from her pimp, I never forgot the strangeness of his behavior. The conversation he has with the secret service agent was another uneasy scene that left me feeling uncomfortable. It was one of the first times I thought to myself, I don’t know if I could ever watch this again.
It took me a long time before I was ever able to. It reminded me of a similar film I had seen that left me very uneasy, A Woman Under the Influence. The strange and abnormal behaviors were new to me and I never understood why people would think or act this way. I wasn’t mature enough to understand the sychology behind it. In fact, it took me so long before I was able to watch it, it wasn’t until after I took Scorsese’s masterclass that I was able to watch it again. In there, he had talked about the iconic scene where De Niro is talking to himself in the mirror. He breaks down the scene and how they were able to shoot it. I found it fascinating. He had mentioned they only had enough money to rent the room for a few hours. It took forever to set everything up and they never really got the shot they needed. The landlord was banging on the door telling them they needed to get out. They kept the door shut and ignored him and just started rolling the camera. He called action and De Niro started improvising. I remember hearing him talk about this and being astonished, that a master of directing, was working under conditions like this. Not only did he speak of the lack of time he had but also, when he sent the audio in to get cleaned up and the people sent it back saying this was the worst audio they ever heard and there was nothing they could do about it. He points out all the different sounds in the background.
The airplane flying, the sirens, people yelling. He said that’s what it sounds like in a New York City apartment and he kept it all in there. It was after hearing all these hurdles that I had to go back and give it another rewatch.
Not much changed for me after watching it as an adult. I, however, was able to side with him being the hero. I was able to see past the ignorance and social awkwardness to find the true sympathy that lies deep within. It will always be uneasy and unsettling to watch characters with these abnormal behaviors and tendencies, but the way Scorsese is able to turn it around and make him the hero instead of the villain is completely mind blowing. It is for that reason, to give the hero some villainous tendencies and still make you love him is and forever will be iconic in the art of storytelling.