Blu-ray: Taxi Driver

The restored version of Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic is one of the best Blu-rays of the year.

Taxi Driver won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, received several Oscar nominations, became a box office hit and became an established classic of 1970s cinema.

A drama about an isolated New York cab driver (Robert De Niro), it explores his relationships with fellow drivers (Peter Boyle), a political campaign volunteer (Cybil Shepherd) and a young prostitute (Jodie Foster), as he starts to see violence as a solution to his loneliness.

This Blu-ray is taken directly from the new 4k restoration supervised by Sony’s Grover Crisp, and approved by Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Chapman.

Great effort has been made to keep the look of the original film intact and this is easily the best looking version of the film I’ve ever seen.

The detail and contrast of the visuals mark a major step up from the last DVD release in 2007 and the audio is equally good with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack sounding tremendous.

Hearing Bernard Herrman’s classic score set to some of the indelible images from the film at this quality is great for admirers of this mid-70s classic.

EXTRA FEATURES

The extras are also another major bonus of this release, featuring a raft of interesting supplementary material.

Original 1986 Commentary with Director Martin Scorsese and Writer: Perhaps the highlight is the inclusion of the 1986 audio commentary Scorsese and Schrader recorded for the Criterion LaserDisc. Although 15 years old, it is brilliantly informative and a fantastic resource for fans and students of the film. Scorsese talks about stylistic influences, shooting in New York and various production details whilst Schrader discusses the inspiration for the story, the themes and his take on the film. They are recorded separately but edited together with a moderator who provides even more background information.

Interactive Script to Screen: This feature shows the script on-screen as the film plays and you sync the script with the film or look at it independently from the film. Perhaps of most interest to film students, it also provides an interesting bridge between how a script looks on page and how it translates visually to the screen.

Audio Commentary by Robert Kolker: The film professor from the University of Virginia provides a highly informative commentary that delves into many facets of the film. From detailed discussions of the visuals to the overall history and impact of the film, it is well worth listening to.

Audio Commentary by Paul Schrader: The screenwriter does another full commentary, this time on his own, and discusses the inspiration for his script, the differences between page and screen, the acting and his feelings about the finished film. Given his personal connection with the material, it makes for an illuminating perspective on the film.

Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver (16:52): An interview with the director where he discusses the background to the film, his career up to that point, how he got hired, Paul Schrader’s script, shooting in New York during 1975, how he related to the central character, the European influences on the film and where it sits in his career.

Producing Taxi Driver (9:53): Producer Michael Phillips speaks about his role in getting the film made, his earlier Oscar-winning success with The Sting (1973), how the dark script was initially a problem with the studio, working with Scorsese and De Niro and the legacy of the film.

God’s Lonely Man (21:42): A piece on the character of Travis Bickle, which sees Paul Schrader discuss how his own personal problems influenced the character and how he became a figure people identified with.

Influence and Appreciation: A Martin Scorsese Tribute (18:30): A piece featuring interview with Oliver Stone (a student of Scorsese’s at NYU in the 1970s), Paul Schrader, Roger Corman, Robert De Niro, Robert Kolker and others as they speak about the director and his films through the lens of Taxi Driver.

Taxi Driver Stories (22:23): Interviews with various cab drivers as they discuss what it was actually like to work in New York during the 1970s.

Making Taxi Driver (1:10:55): A comprehensive documentary from the early 1990s that covers the production and legacy of the film. Featuring interviews with key cast and crew it is a fascinating look at how it was made. There is some overlap from the other material on the disc, but for fans of the film this is a great overall look at the film.

Travis’ New York (6:16): Cinematographer Michael Chapman and former New York Mayor Ed Koch discuss what New York was actually like during the era in which Taxi Driver was shot on location there.

Travis’ New York Locations (4:49): A split-screen comparison of nine clips from the film along side the very same New York locations as they were in 2006.

Intro to Storyboards by Martin Scorsese (4:32): The director talks about the importance of storyboarding and how he used it whilst making the film.

Storyboard to Film Comparison (8:21): Various scenes are juxtaposed with the storyboards, which makes for a fascinating comparison of the two as some sketches are remarkably faithful to the finished shots.

Galleries (9:28): The image galleries feature photos of Bernard Herrmann’s sheet music for his iconic score, the crew on location (featuring some great black and white shots of Scorsese and De Niro), the original publicity materials and Martin Scorsese at work during the film.

Taxi Driver is out today from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

> Buy Taxi Driver on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Revisiting Taxi Driver (my longer thoughts on the film)
> The Digital Bits interview Grover Crisp of Sony about the new 4k restoration process
> Taxi Driver at the IMDb
> Martin Scorsese at MUBi
> Scorsese and Schrader discuss the restored version in a Q&A last month