Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Taxi Driver + Heartbreaker

Taxi Driver. It's a very difficult proposition to list my favorite Martin Scorsese films, but if I had to make one (anyone who knows me knows I love a good list so this isn't exactly torture) Taxi Driver would be a solid number three. The sad thing for it, no matter how many times I watch it, chances are it will stay at number three. No way I will ever move it ahead of my two favorites Raging Bull and Good Fellas. Those two are as good as it gets for cinema as a whole, no matter the director. Future Scorsese movies? No hope they will eclipse these three.

Released in 1976, Taxi Driver still packs a tremendous punch as a visceral look at urban isolation, decay and seediness as a socially inept war veteran (Travis Bickle) goes off the deep end whilst coming up with ways to clean the streets of the "scum" he encounters while driving his taxi. Robert De Niro's first post-Godfather II (1974) role is as Bickle and it's a legendary performance with lots of classic scenes ("You talkin' to me?" being the most well known). The only thing about it that never stops bugging me is why De Niro wore a skullcap rather than shaving an actual mohawk on his head. I don't care about sequence filming or any of that. He should have taken razor to skull. How is that method acting, Mr. De Niro? Taxi Driver has a relentless script from Paul Schrader and it's just as dark today as when it originally came out. Great supporting roles by Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle, Cybill Shepherd, Jodie Foster and a brief, wonderful scene by Stephen Prince as a gun salesman named Easy Andy that kills me every time I watch it. Taxi Driver belongs in the category of must see over and over cinema.

Heartbreaker. Now for something different--French farce! I love French cinema and there's nothing more enjoyable from there than witnessing their version of the American romantic comedy. If I had to choose between something similar between France and America regarding romantic comedies--it's France. Sorry patriotic Americans but Hollywood has dumbed down this genre so much they are increasingly painful to watch. The French know how to deliver chemistry, physical comedy, intelligence and more edge than the parade of blander than bland movies Hollywood creates. Let's add Heartbreaker to that list of how the French do it better than the Americans.

Starring the charismatic (and desperate for a cheeseburger and fries skinny) Romain Duris as a lover-for-hire, paid to break up relationships by seducing unhappy females by concerned loved ones. He works in a team of three (more comedy fodder obviously) and he takes the job very seriously, doing research, creating elaborate ruses to further woo his target. Trouble ensues when he meets Juliette Van Der Becq (Johnny Depp's l'amour Vanessa Paradis), an extremely wealthy, independent and not interested since she's about to be married. Or is she?  Of course she is! It wouldn't be a farcical French romantic comedy if she isn't tempted by Duris' charms. Light as a feather, Heartbreaker delivers laughs and romance as it beguiles the characters on the screen and the audience as well.


Guy Gadbois said...

Casino is my fave.

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

I love CASINO too. It's a solid #4, really really close to TAXI DRIVER. It's hard to pick one of those over another really as they are all pretty amazing films.

Cinerobotomatic said...

I'm still haunted and slightly freaked out by Taxi Driver. Definitely great movie that sticks with you. Heartbreaker is one of the most fun, delightful movies I've seen in a long time. Believe it or not, it might be my number 1 for the year based on sheer enjoyment factor.

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

HEARTBREAKER is a fun one. Full-on French farce.