Part of the Scorsese season currently at BFI Southbank, the new 4k restoration of Taxi Driver makes the film an even more essential part of any history of American, indeed World, cinema.
The 1976 Palme d’Or winner arrives as if cleaned up by a “real rain”. I’ve never seen it like this – previously, it’s always been on scratchy prints or warped, probably pirated VHS copies late night as a student.
But now, overseen by the cinematographer Michael Chapman and Marty himself, all the grub of the New York streets is preserved, all the blood red of the neon lights and all the garish giallo horror of the climax which sears itself into your very soul.
The audio is cleaned up, so Bernard Herrmann’s haunting (and final) score rises like the steam from the manholes, and the emotional fragility and paranoid tension of Paul Schrader’s script seeps through, the about-to-snap wiriness of De Niro’s Travis Bickle both chilling and somehow heart-breaking, especially when contrasted with the beauty of Cybil Shepherd and the corrupted innocence of Jodie Foster’s Iris. And is there any creep creepier than Harvey Keitel’s pimp Matthew?
A masterpiece just got even better – I’d go as far as to say that, for quite a few of us, you haven’t seen Taxi Driver until you’ve seen this 4k restoration on the big screen.
By the way, on Scorsese-related matters, I’m down at BFI Southbank next Saturday Feb 18, to interview Lorraine Bracco, yes, Karen from Goodfellas, live on stage after a screening of the film: