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Taxi Driver And The Hollywood Renaissance

2330 words - 9 pages

Largely influenced by the French New Wave and other international film movements, many American filmmakers in the late 1960s to 1970s sought to revolutionize Hollywood cinema in a similar way. The New Hollywood movement, also referred to as the “American New Wave” and the “Hollywood Renaissance,” defied traditional Hollywood standards and practices in countless ways, creating a more innovative and artistic style of filmmaking. Due to the advent and popularity of television, significant decrease in movie theater attendance, rising production costs, and changing tastes of American audiences, particularly in the younger generation, Hollywood studios were in a state of financial disaster. Many studios thus hired a host of young filmmakers to revitalize the business, and let them experiment and have almost complete creative control over their films. In addition, the abandonment of the restrictive Motion Picture Production Code in 1967 and the subsequent adoption of the MPAA’s rating system in 1968 opened the door to an era of increased artistic freedom and expression.

One of the most prominent and influential directors in New Hollywood was Italian-American Martin Scorsese. His first major critical success, and what is often considered his “breakthrough” film, was 1973’s Mean Streets. This film helped to establish Scorsese’s signature style in regards to narrative and thematics as well as aesthetically. Scorsese developed a unique and distinct directorial flair to his films, with reoccurring themes, settings, cinematography, and editing techniques, among other elements. This led a number of film critics to declare Scorsese an “auteur,” similar to Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, and other auteur directors of the French New Wave.

While Scorsese directed a number of films in the New Hollywood period, including the Oscar winner Raging Bull (1980), the film that best captured the issues of its time and the essence of New Hollywood was Taxi Driver (1976). Taxi Driver was a huge departure from typical Hollywood and exemplified what New Hollywood wanted to achieve in a number of ways. The non-traditional narrative combined with the unique aesthetics of the film truly set it apart from its conventional Hollywood predecessors.

Disjunctive editing was one of the cinematic practices favored by New Hollywood. In opposition to the traditional continuity editing of Hollywood, disjunctive editing further distanced New Hollywood films from their predecessors and served a number of purposes – from forcing the audience to actively be engaged in the film to disorienting them for artistic, ideological, or psychological purposes. Andre Caron, in his article “The Last Temptation of Travis Bickle,” asserts that Scorsese uses jump cuts as a “sudden distancing process” in order to separate the viewer from Travis. In one of Taxi Driver’s most memorable scenes, Travis practices confronting someone in front of his mirror. He points his gun at his reflection and utters...

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