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From Bava to Bresson: The Films That Inspired ‘Taxi Driver’

Femme Fatales, post-war disorientation, and voice-over? Huh. Maybe ‘Taxi Driver’ is a noir film.
Taxi Driver Movie Theater
By  · Published on December 14th, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that examines the films that inspired Martin Scorsese’s movie Taxi Driver.

Martin Scorsese has always been upfront and vocal about his love of cinema, on-screen and off. Movies don’t have “works cited” lists in the end credits to untangle homage from plagiarism. But that kind of butt-covering doesn’t even remotely feel necessary with Scorsese: who is not only vocal off-screen about the films that influence him but arguably performs a kind of visual citation.

As the video essay below keenly argues, Taxi Driver — the 1976 Paul Schrader-penned tale of isolated, violence-courting toxic masculinity — is a perfect case study of the director’s entrenchment as a silver screen fiend.

Schrader himself has noted his own cinematic influences (including the nerve-wracking austerity of Robert Bresson’s minimalist masterpiece Pickpocket). But focusing on Scorsese’s touch points, we find everything from game-changing cinematic movements to one-off masterpieces. The video essay identifies Scorsese’s clear debt to the bold expressionism of Mario Bava and Jacques Tourneur, to Jean-Luc Goddard’s jump-cuts, and to horror thrillers like Psycho that dare us to identify with morally repugnant protagonists.

This goes without saying — and the video essay agrees — that engaging with the other works is a valid and powerful creative approach to movie-making. Art isn’t created in a vacuum. And Taxi Driver is hard proof of what you can create when you engage actively with your inspirations:

Watch “Taxi Driver | The Films That Inspired Martin Scorsese”

Who made this?

This video on the films that inspired Taxi Driver comes courtesy of The Discarded Image, a video essay channel created by Julian Palmer. The channel began with a deconstruction of how Steven Spielberg creates suspense with the beach scene in Jaws. It has steadily grown from there. You can check out The Discarded Image’s video essays here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).