Essay about The Western Revisited in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver

Essay about The Western Revisited in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver

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The Western Revisited in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver


One need only peruse his impressive filmography to realize that Martin Scorsese's corpus spans several decades and extends across as many genres. As a veteran filmmaker (and self professed cinephile) Scorsese must understand that the Western is the oldest Hollywood genre which, like all genres, is defined according to specific motifs, iconography, conventions and themes (Mast, 468). In fact, by deliberately invoking the codes and conventions of the Western to underpin Taxi Driver (1976), he demonstrates his virtuosic mastery of the genre. To be sure, Scorsese's film not only resuscitates this particular kind of narrative, but it goes so far as to mimic one of the most celebrated Westerns of all time, John Ford's The Searchers (1956).

As Robert Warshow contends, "the popular genre film makes connections both with its filmic past and within the temperaments of its contemporary viewers" (Mast, 430). Though they were made some twenty years apart, each film is the product of similar sociohistorical circumstances. The postWar ethos of American cynicism following Korea and World War II underlies The Searchers; while Taxi Driver manifests the seething resentment in the wake of Vietnam. It is not surprising, then, that each film features as its central protagonist a returning war veteran who seeks respite from an overwhelming sense of anomie and patent loneliness. This is not to suggest that Taxi Driver is merely a modern day remake of The Searchers, although the narrative and basic thematic structure of Scorsese's film does appear to be virtually identical to Ford's classic. It is just that the generic similarities that exist between the two films are much more interesting t...


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... Travis is even allowed expression is Scorsese's attempt to absolve the guilty conscience of the returning war veteran, even though he is unable to alleviate his feeling of loneliness.

The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a curious phenomenon, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.
(Thomas Wolfe, God's Lonely Man )

I'm God's lonely man.
(Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver)

Works Cited:

Allen, Robert C., ed. Channels of Discourse, Reassembled. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

Boyd, Peter. "Prisoners of the Night." Film Heritage. winter 1976: 2430.

Kolker, Robert Phillip. A Cinema of Loneliness. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Mast, Gerald, Marshall Cohen, and Leo Braudy, eds. Film Theory and Criticism. Oxford University Press: New York, 1992.

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