“You talkin’ to me? [¿Me estás hablando a mí?]”Is the phrase of Taxi Drive (1976) for which Scorsese and De Niro will be remembered forever and ever. But the New York filmmaker’s masterpiece contains many others of deeper significance. We remember the best in the year in which the film, Palme d’Or at Cannes, turns 45 and we tell you, in case you don’t know, that the author of these words sacred to many were written by Paul Schrader (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1946), not by Scorsese. If his name does not sound familiar to you, surely you do remember American Gigoló (1980), with Richard Gere, or the most recent The priest (2017), with Ethan Hawke, two films in which, in addition to being a screenwriter, he signs as director.
But let’s get down to business because the most sordid, dark and depressing story Scorsese has ever made cost him his share. The now revered filmmaker had changed his beloved New York for the city of Los Angeles with the intention of getting closer to the world of great producers. In those early years of the 70s, he had already collaborated as an editor and director of the documentary Street Scenes and had just released the film with little success Bertha’s train (1972). It was then that a first draft of the script for Taxi Driver. It was passed to him by his friend, director Brian de Palma, and Martin was enthusiastic and obsessed with the idea of making it a film. But what happened? That Schrader had just seen Bertha’s train And it had seemed like a slop. That is why he said “no.” De Palma interceded alleging that Scorsese was immersed in a larger project entitled Bad streets (1973), with Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel, that this new film was going to hit hard and that it also traveled the same urban dumps as Schrader’s script. “Perfect, when it opens, I’ll decide,” concluded the writer. Bad streets It swept and Schrader felt when he saw her that this guy was his soul mate, at least when it came to portraying the ugliest in society. The conflicts between them and the fight of egos while filming would come later.
But where does that guy named Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) come from, a former marine, fresh from the Vietnam War, with chronic insomnia, lonely, tender, disoriented, who watches porn and ends up psychotic lost when he sees how Every night the biggest jetas and remains of the city get on and off their taxi? Paul Schrader was raised in a strict Calvinist family that marked his character for life. Hence, her character tries to redeem the prostitute girl played by Jodie Foster or that internal struggle that she maintains between good and evil during the 113 minutes that the film lasts.
Dostoyevsky’s literature also influenced him, Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, el film francés Pickpocket Robert Bresson and a deep depression: he had lost his job, he was in the process of divorce, his last girlfriend had stood him up and he was living in a car. Prostitutes, pimps and camels were his daily bread. So when he took out all his shit against himself and the system and wrote the script for Taxi DriverHe recognized that it had been a very liberating exercise in exorcism.
Taxi Driver it was released in 1976 and was a resounding success. In its first weeks on the bill, in the US, long lines were formed to access the rooms. Everyone was talking about her. Then came the Palme d’Or at Cannes and four Oscar nominations – best film, best actor, best supporting actress and best music. He did not take any, not even Robert De Niro in one of the best jobs of his career (for me the best), but this is where the Scorsese-Schrader tandem was born. They say that during filming they did not stop arguing, yelling at each other and sending each other to hell. But you already know: after the fights come the sweetest reunions and they made peace in a big way by filming wild bull (1980), with a De Niro who then did win the Oscar; The last temptation of Christ (1988), that provocation made into a movie starred in Willem Dafoe, and To the limit (1999), less known but with a Nicolas Cage driving an ambulance through the same streets that Travis traveled in Taxi Driver and that worked very well.
Paul Schrader has also worked as a screenwriter alongside other greats such as Sydney Pollack (Yakuza), Brian de Palma (Fascination) o Peter Wair (The Mosquito Coast). He has continued directing and writing his own stories, some deeply sad and tender such as Affliction (1997) –about an insecure son (Nick Nolte) and an alcoholic father who despises him, a character with whom the legendary James Coburn won the Oscar–, and others who are a true truño: an example is The Canyons, with Lindsay Lohan. His next project looks very different and fills us with emotion because he will return, as he himself confirmed, to form an artistic partnership with the sacred Scorsese. And since Martin also grew up in a very deep religious environment, in his case Catholic, they have decided to launch a series on the origins of Christianity. We will have to wait, because both have to fulfill other commitments first.