Taxi Driver

It has been many moons since I’ve sat down and watched Taxi Driver in it’s entirety, too long and I think I’m due for a re watch.

The scene we were asked to analyse is an interesting one. We start off with what I would classify as between a mid shot and close up of Travis (Robert DeNiro) in his taxi looking out the window towards a building. Travis gets out of the cab and the camera follows him in a wide shot as he enters.

We’re now inside the building and the camera tracks Travis from the front with a mid shot as he walks towards a desk with two occupants. As he comes closer the camera changes angles to show the two occupants of the desk, the camera continues to move forward, as if in Travis’ footsteps and puts particular emphasis on Cybill Shepherds’ character Betsy, zooming into her face. This makes it evident that Betsy is an important character, she is the one Travis is here to see and she will be one of the main focuses of the scene – it becomes clear the man chatting with her, Albert Brooks’ character Tom, is not of much importance to Travis and the scene will mainly consist of him and Betsy. I think this is made more clear for the fact that we are approaching the desk as if through Travis’ eyes, the zoom in on Betsy emphasises what is important to Travis.

The conversation between Betsy and Travis now commences. It involves a lot of dirty shoulder shots, shots of Travis talking with the camera behind Betsy’s shoulder and vice versa. There is an interesting mid shot during the conversation which shows both Travis and Betsy from the side, you can see the rest of the office behind them and in this shot Tom appears. He is feigning interest in papers on another desk but it is obvious he is watching Travis and Betsy’s conversation. This works well to convey a sense of distrust in Travis. Tom is showing concern for Betsy and apprehension of Travis’ character. When Travis initially enters the scene and says he would like to sign up to campaign for Presidential candidate Charles Palantine Tom offers to sign him up but Travis insists he must speak with Betsy. It is obvious from this point that Tom is distrusting of Travis’ intentions, and this mid shot during Travis and Betsy’s conversation helps enforce this.

During the rest of the scene Travis and Betsy continue to converse and Travis asks Betsy out on a date. This conversation consists again mainly of dirty over the shoulder shots and you can see Tom in the background for the rest of the scene, at first walking past Travis and Betsy and glancing back at them, then he takes a seat in the background behind a pole and you continually see his head sticking out spying on Travis and Betsy.

I think this is a fantastic scene. It sets up a feeling of distrust in Travis and builds tension between Travis and Tom. We know Tom doesn’t trust Travis and it foreshadows things to come between Travis and Betsy. I think the scene works effectively at laying the groundwork for things to come in the film. Scorsese is a masterful director and Taxi Driver is, in my opinion, one of his best works. This simply, yet effective scene is indicative of his fantastic skills as a director. It shows how such a basic scene can foreshadow and layer so much in a movie.

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