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Taxi Driver – 40th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Taxi Driver BD Oring_FrontleftSo it seems that every five years we will be getting a new edition of Taxi Driver on whatever home format is available. The classic Martin Scorsese neo-noir/psychological thriller has been given its share of acclaim so many times that delving into something new about the film almost feels unnecessary. And yet, this latest release adds on a new 40-minute Q&A to go along with all the other extras and the 4K digital restoration previously found on other Blu-ray releases of the film. For those who have never owned the film before, this is (for now) the ultimate edition as far as all that comes with this terrific and legendary film.

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Film:

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Is there anything still to be said about the film? Let’s see. Taxi Driver concerns the story of a 26-year-old man, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro). He’s an honorably discharged U.S. Marine now living a lonely and depressed life in New York City. Travis can’t sleep so he takes up a job as a taxi driver. The story takes various turns, including Travis’ infatuation with Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) and his eventual need to protect Iris (Jodie Foster), a young prostitute working for a nasty pimp played by Harvey Keitel. Things come to a head in various ways, which ultimately pray upon possibly psychotic urges that drive Travis to further depths.

That’s the film in a nutshell, which hardly delves into why this film has earned its legacy. Fitting of Scorsese, Taxi Driver was met with both praise and controversy, given some of the violent content and a lack of commitment to traditional filmmaking ideas. This was the 70s, so it was a time for ambition and exploration, but audiences and older critics certainly found things to be apprehensive about. Of course, years later, we are still talking about the film and its impact.

A lot of the joy comes in seeing Scorsese still experimenting, yet also being at the top of his game (though he rarely hasn’t been in peak form). While there is dourness in what we see, the film is so visually exciting as far as the way New York looks, especially at night and the use of Bernard Herrmann’s terrific and haunting score. Writer Paul Schrader developed a stunningly bleak story with minor glimmers of hope, which Scorsese capitalizes on in an attempt to deliver something so incredibly unique that many other films of a similar nature can rarely escape comparison.

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There is joy in seeing films since try to play off of a vibe created by Taxi Driver, but few come close to being anywhere near this film’s caliber. I call to mind something more commercial like Seven and various other films by David Fincher. There’s even Scorsese’s own 1999 spiritual follow-up, the vastly underrated Bringing Out The Dead, which has trouble matching up in the same way. It comes down to the time in which this film was made, where cinema was at that time and the indelible work by all involved.

One could speak for hours about how amazing De Niro is here, as his method abilities during the peak times of his career allow for seeing so much come from what he is able to deliver. Much praise can also be given to the entire supporting cast, which also includes Albert Brooks and Peter Boyle. As cinematically engaging, challenging and amazing as this film is, there is not a single reason to discredit the acting on display either, especially given the terrific screenplay these performers all had to work with.

Taxi Driver is a bleak drama to say the least, but incredibly watchable. It has plenty of reasons to be on so many “greatest of all time” lists and I feel plenty happy to put in my two cents on what allows it to continue to hold up after all these years. Scorsese doesn’t exactly need further confirmation of why he is one of our greatest directors, but it’s not a problem to take on the challenge of continuing to compliment his work.

 

Video:

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: Just to be clear up front, this is not a new transfer and until we get 6K TVs or something, don’t expect there to be a version of Taxi Driver than looks any better than this (or the 4K UHD version). The 4K restoration was amazing back in 2011 and it amazing now. This dark film looks crystal clear in a good way. The inherent grit, based on the time and setting, is left intact, but nothing is gone from how the visuals apply to the film’s atmosphere. New York City remains vibrant here, with all the great details perfectly coming into focus.

Depth: Watching Bickle travel down the endless, dark corridors of New York city or having him appear and stand out in a crowd properly shows just how great the level of depth is in this video transfer.

Black Levels: So much of this movie is set at night and the darkness allows us to see black levels that are exceptionally deep and rich, with no signs of crush.

Color Reproduction: The yellow of Bickle’s cab and the red of the bloodshed are among the great moments where the level of color really shines. It all pops and provides great insight to just how much detail went into this gritty drama.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures are seen with plenty of clarity. The various imperfections on these characters faces and more all stand out without overtaking the film’s visuals.

Noise/Artifacts: Aside from the expected level of grain, nothing to complain about.

 

Audio:

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish

Dynamics: The lossless soundtrack matches up to the incredibly video transfer. Every aspect to be found in the sound design and score of this film registers as greatly as one would hope. From the first echoes of Herrmann’s score to the gun shots that erupt, all that you need can be heard here.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel does get its share of moments to play with, given how certain soundtrack elements play up with the bass. It’s not overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be either.

Surround Sound Presentation: A proper balance is provided to all that we here. The dialogue is center-focused, while the score and ambient sounds are balanced well enough to make good use of the additional channels.

Dialogue Reproduction: Clean and clear.

 

Extras:

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There is only one new special feature here and that’s the latest Q&A featuring many of the major players. That said, the features available on the previous release are all here, spread across two discs and make this one great comprehensive look at Taxi Driver, with little territory going unexplored.

Features Include:

Disc One:

  • 2016 Tribeca Film Festival Taxi Driver Q&A (HD, 41:56) – Scorsese, De Niro, Foster, Keitel, Shepherd, Schrader, and producer Michael Philips all sit down in front of a live audience to discuss the film. The conversation ranges from origin stories to fun anecdotes. There is not much new information, but it was nice to see this group getting together for something like this.
  • Original 1986 Audio Commentary with Scorsese and Schrader – The track originally recorded for the Criterion Collection LaserDisc release, which features a moderator helping to dissect the making of the film as it plays, with plenty of discussion concerning the themes and scripting process.
  • Audio Commentary with Professor Robert Kolker – A commentary track that analyses the film on a variety of levels, serving as a great film class lecture.
  • Audio Commentary with Schrader – A more recently recorded track, which finds the screenwriter discussing the film a bit more candidly and what thoughts have come about since.
  • Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver (HD, 16:52)
  • Producing Taxi Driver (HD, 9:53)
  • God’s Lonely Man (HD, 21:42) – A dissection of the Travis Bickle character.
  • Taxi Driver Stories (HD, 22:23) – Formers cabbies talk about their experience in 70s New York City.
  • Travis’ New York (HD, 6:16) – Cinematographer Michael Chapman and former NY Mayor Ed Koch talk 70s New York City
  • Travis’ New York Locations (HD, 4:49) – Split-screen clips that depict New York in 1976 and New York in 2006.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:09)

Disc Two (DVD):

  • Making Taxi Driver (SD, 1:10:55) – A great documentary that goes over the whole filmmaking process for Taxi Driver. That said, the commentaries do provide a lot of the same information.
  • Storyboard to Film Comparisons with Martin Scorsese (SD, 8:21)
  • Animated Photo Galleries (SD, 9:28)

Digital HD Copy of the Film

 

Summary:

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Taxi Driver remains an iconic classic that any film fan should seek out, even if the bleakness rubs them the wrong way. Scorsese’s hands at work have made for a film that deserves its status in film history. This latest release offers little that’s new, aside from a newly recorded Q&A, but this is still a terrific release as far as the plethora of extras and the flawless technical presentation. If you don’t already have Taxi Driver or really need every special feature you can get, this is an easy purchase to make.

Order Your Copy Here:

Taxi Driver BD Oring_Frontleft

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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