The recent arrival of Taxi Driver on Prime Video is an opportunity to examine a legendary friendship in cinema: the one that has linked Martin Scorsese to Robert De Niro for nearly 45 years. Focus on 3 cult films by the filmmaker and his favorite actor.
Released in 1973, Mean Streets marks the very first collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Robert de Niro. It was two years earlier that the two men met. While the director is working on the casting of his third film, in search of someone who has known the streets of the Little Italy district, he comes across this actor who has rubbed shoulders with the same addresses as him.
Add to that their Italian roots, belonging to the same generation and a multitude of memories in common: it took Scorsese no more to see De Niro as a cinema double. In Mean Streets, the actor is Johnny Boy and bursts the screen facing Charlie Cappa, aka Harvey Keitel. Mythical, the simple scene of his entry into the bar on the Stones Jumpin ‘Jack Flash is enough to prove it.
A classic that has not aged a bit, listed in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress and which opened the doors to notoriety for the duo, before the consecration three years later …
You don’t have to be a cinephile to have heard of Taxi Driver as this film has become such a cultural symbol. Unveiled at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival, this psychological drama won all the public’s favor, in addition to the Palme d’Or and the Oscar for Best Actor for Robert De Niro.
Here we are, plunged into the streets of New York, in pursuit of Travis Bickle, an insomniac and lonely taxi driver. During his nocturnal wanderings between shopping with customers and escaping in X cinemas, this Vietnam veteran is confronted with the perversion and violence of the street. This feeds in him a psychosis which gradually makes him fall into madness.
Beyond its unforgettable musical theme signed Bernard Hermann and the revelation of Jodie Foster (aged 12 during the shooting), Taxi Driver gives us to see the virtuosity of De Niro carried by the talent of Scorsese. Having blind faith in his actor, the director lets him deliver his own score, thus giving birth to scenes that have become legendary, such as the famous “U talking to me?” totally improvised in front of the mirror. The mark of the grown-ups.
The Waltz of the puppets
If Scorsesian cinema still inspires filmmakers, La Valse des puppins is undoubtedly one of the works that most inspired Todd Phillips for the realization of the already cult Joker. More than 35 years before playing a star presenter who laughs live at Joaquin Phoenix alias Arthur Fleck, failed comedian, Robert de Niro himself played a comic in sickly lack of recognition.
In 1983, he played Rupert Pupkin, a man whose biggest dream is to become a comic star in The Jerry Langford Show. One evening, when the show’s recording was finished, Rupert approached his star host. Fantasizing the upcoming explosion of his career, he will pursue the host, harass him, even going so far as to kidnap him for the sole purpose of appearing on his show.
Less popular than some of the tandem’s other films, La Valse des Pantins is a psychological and political masterpiece that brilliantly marries comedy and thriller. As endearing as it can be chilling, De Niro’s character faces a Jerry Lewis who here marks his first steps in a dramatic role. A nugget that still rings true, to (re) discover without hesitation!
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