This is a fairly old gripe, but with the release of the new Taxi Driver special edition double-disc DVD on 8.14 it seems allowable to dredge it up again. It’s addresses the core definition of the term” original vision” so it’s a fairly major issue.
When this 1976 film was restored sometime around ’96 or ’97, director Martin Scorsese made the decision to leave the brownish sepia tint over the final shoot- out scene in that lower East Side tenement building, even though it wasn’t part of his original vision to have it look this way. Scorsese was forced into the brown-tint alternative (i.e., which toned down the red-blood shots) by the ratings board, and his explanation for keeping this muted color scheme is that “this is how the film looked when it came out…this is what it was, a product of the time we were living in, the forces we were dealing with.”
The brownish tint obviously had nothing to do visually, thematically or conceptually with the rest of the film — it was a political solution enforced by persons who had nothing to do with Taxi Driver until it was in post — and it obviously separates this sequence from the rest of the film. (It looks just as jarring and strange today as it did 31 years ago.) In this sense Taxi Driver is very much a co-directed film, and obviously not to anyone’s credit. .
And yet Scorsese, a cineaste extraordinaire who’s fought for the restoration of classic films all his life, wants it to stay brownish for a reason that no other artist in any medium has ever used. He’s the only movie director in world history to not only accept but defend the vandalizing of one of his own works….amazing
Imagine Leonardo Da Vinci‘s “Mona Lisa” hanging today in the Louvre with a big grayish smear across the lower right side of the painting because one of Da Vinci’s assistants happened to spill a jar of paste as he was framing it way back when. And Louvre restorationists haven’t cleaned it off because Da Vinci, wanting to respect the conditions under which he created this legendary work, made it clear to his contemporaries that he wanted it left alone. How would this differ from what Scorsese is saying? God’s lonely man indeed.