I could never buy the denouement of Taxi Driver, and I never will. Travis Bickle, suspected by Treasury agents as a nutjob assassin who almost killed Sen. Charles Palatine, is portrayed as a hero by the media for shooting a corrupt cop and two pimps in an East Side tenement building? And this shooting in some way helps the parents of Jodie Foster to find her and bring her back home to Indiana? And then the dreamily erotic Cybil Shepard is giving Travis a come-hither look in the rear-view mirror when he gives her a ride in his cab? It’s all Travis’s death fantasy… the stuff he wishes would happen as he sits on that tenement couch, bleeding profusely and eyeballing the cops in the doorway as he pretends to shoot himself in the head. The very last shot in Taxi Driver is of a seemingly startled Travis looking into his cab’s rearview mirror, and then whoosh…he’s gone. No reflection. Because Travis isn’t really there.
In her 3.31 New York Times piece, Caryn James mentioned a slate of recent films or plays (the Ashton Kutcher-Bernice Mac comedy Guess Who?, Neil LaBute’s This Is How It Is, etc.) that have dealt in some front-and-center way with racism. She mentioned a pair of indie films that grapple with it also (Face, A Wake in Providence) and yet, oddly, she didn’t mention Paul Haggis’ Crash (Lions Gate, 5.6), the most ambitious and stylstically assertive movie about racism to come down the pike in a long while. This Los Angeles-based ensemble drama, which I’m showing at my UCLA Sneak Preview class on Monday, is about little besides racism. It costars Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Sandra Bullock, Terrence Howard, Jennifer Esposito,Ryan Phillipe (delivering his best acting yet) and Thandie Newton.
If you’re going to see Sin City, see it digitally projected.
Robert Rodriguez’s shimmering silvery black-and-white photography is heaven on the eyes, and digital makes it look that much better. The photography (and a sincere congrats to Rodriguez for getting this aspect right) is all this movie has. Sin City is geek noir, or noir for T-shirt wearing, beer-bellied guys who rarely get laid and didn’t graduate from college. Hard guys talking tough and fatalistic and cryptic, constantly shooting or slugging bad guys or getting shot or slugged themselves…sucking cigarette smoke and worhsipping women for their goodness while smacking their lips at their carnal allure….and I am telling you it’s all crap. And the odd thing, it doesn’t read like crap when you read one of Frank Miller’s graphic novels.