The horse is immense. It drags the carriage against the perpetual wind, its eyes agitated and delirious, each step perhaps its last, and yet it keeps moving, muscles tensing and relaxing as it gallops to the portentous rhythm of hypnotic music that rises in volume and madness as its sinister vibrations signal the tremors of a fading world.
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If the quality of a work of art is measured in part by the degree to which it transcends its medium, then, even against the context of 35 years of admiration, Martin Scorsese’s widely beloved Taxi Driver may actually qualify as under-appreciated. It’s a seemingly absurd notion, but consider the dramatic divergence in fortunes between the original negative – the film’s literal medium – and the images and ideas contained thereon. While the original elements have deteriorated to such an extent that Sony Pictures required over a year to achieve a lavish 4K restoration, in terms of cultural significance and thematic resonance, Taxi Driver hasn’t aged a day.
This film is soaked in the cool machismo of its characters. It flows like a clever turn of phrase, like punchy slang, like a barrage of adjectives. It gestures with street-savvy swagger. The camera flies, stops, stares, makes ironic commentary with an angle or a lengthened take.
Have you ever peered deep into the eyes of a parent or grandparent and thought about the life they had long ago? A life before kids; before grandkids. A life you’ll probably never know. For most, that look has nothing to hide, but for others the life they once lived and the atrocities once witnessed will forever be etched into the complexion of their faces. You understand that these are moments of their past that to bring up now would only evoke sorrow. But what if you did find out? And what if what you found out was something you’d rather have not of known in the first place?
Hungarian filmmaker, Béla Tarr, represents everything that is right with contemporary cinema and through the international film festival circuit he has garnered critical acclaim as well as developed a strong reputation based on his very unique sense of directorial style. Despite Tarr’s small scale successes, as Peter Hames points out, his films will forever run into funding problems and stand a zero chance of obtaining wide theatrical releases or airing on television (Hames, 2001).