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Culture Vulture Schmulture – T

In a feature shamelessly “inspired” by The Times‘s Culture Vulture, British Expat brings you the above titled (subtitled “Things you should own, if they’re the sort of thing you might like…”).
I need a distraction, otherwise I’ll have to actually watch Wipeout, The Worst Show on Telly™. Makes me shudder just to think of it. So here we go, we’re on to ‘T’, and the light at the end of the tunnel shines ever brighter.

Trainspotting (the book rather than the film), The Third Man, Touch Of Evil, the Technique LP by New Order and Michael Jackson’s Thriller were all in the running. I know I’ve used the phrase, but this time it really does fit – there was only ever going to be one winner. (Having said that, there’s kind of two winners – the character and the film in which he is contained both begin with ‘T’.) Taxi Driver.

The combination of Scorsese and De Niro has led to some truly great movies, perhaps none more so than Taxi Driver. David Pirie said in a Time Out review that “Taxi Driver makes you realise just how many directors, from Schlesinger to Friedkin and Winner, have piddled around on the surface of New York in their films.” In the words of the Budweiser adverts currently doing the rounds: True! Though it is a mark of the worthlessness of Academy Awards that he wasn’t even nominated for Best Director. Robert De Niro, as psychopathic Travis Bickle – a contender for the best lead ever, Jodie Foster as a 13 year old prostitute and Bernard Herrmann, for the palpably menacing score did all receive nominations, though not one of them took the Oscar home (shame, though they have all won for other films).

De Niro, famed for being a fanatical Method Actor (training hard, then putting on 50lbs for Raging Bull being the most famous example of this), spent months driving a taxi around NY, NY and (allegedly) took up the exciting hobby of dropping acid to ‘get into’ the part properly. It works; he is genuinely frightening, and not a little bit cool! He develops the most impressive technique for drawing a gun (runners along his arm, under his jacket – c’est fantastique!), has his hair cut quite drastically and ends up a hero. The plot and sub-plots are all bordering on genius – I won’t give them away, because if you haven’t seen it you really should. And soon. I managed to find it for less than a fiver (and that video also has Midnight Express on it, another excellent psychological study of the pressures of leading an extreme life).

Jodie Foster and Harvey Keitel make their big screen breakthroughs in Taxi Driver, Cybill Shepherd co-stars as the love interest, Scorsese never betters it, De Niro is hard pushed to. This film has so many factors to recommend it that it becomes almost silly to list each individually. Each time I watch it I pick up something new, there are few films so layered yet so simplistic. If you’ve never listened to me, or never intend to, please do this once. Put a little trust in little Atoz. I’ve only skimmed the surface, as I don’t want to ruin any surprises that may lie in store for the Palestines amongst you (you don’t know nuffink.).

A riddle for you – what comes after ‘T’, but before ‘V’? (Answer: ‘U’)

PG Author: Atoz

(aka Dave Stock:) the first person in the world to write to britishexpat.com, and probably the last to send in his biog. After a few useful one-off contributions, Atoz started his irregular A to Z of cultural icons. At the time of writing this, he’s up to “O” – but there’s still no sign of the biog. (Update – he still hadn’t sent it in by the time he’d reached “Z”!)

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