Last night I watched most of Taxi Driver for – what – the 25th time? [Make that 26th time – the cable station that was playing it played it again, back to back, so I had to watch it again to see what I’d missed earlier, and then I wanted to see the rest of the movie in sequence.] No director’s movies resonate with me more deeply and consistently than Martin Scorsese‘s classic films, from this 1976 breakthrough through Raging Bull (maybe my favorite move of all time), The King of Comedy and After Hours, and ending with Goodfellas. Since then he’s been a hollow run of the movie director’s equivalent of the Stones’ “best album since Exile.” Even Kundun was a letdown.
I blame Scorsese’s decline on his late-midlife crisis of chasing all the blonde cheerleader types who’d never looked his way when he was a young, awkward nobody, going through his own set of anxieties. It was one thing to work out his neuroses by having Travis go off the deep end in response to rejection by Cybill Shepherd’s character, but it’s something else to cast Cameron Diaz and ask her to speak in an Irish brogue for some 19th century Riverdance. But this is not exactly what I’m here to discuss.
I bet you’re all familiar with the concept of what I call the screeching halt movie, one of those movies that, when flipping channels, brings your remote control to a screeching halt and keeps you locked into the film from whatever point you entered until its conclusion. (You’re probably thinking of one of your screeching half faves as you read this – feel free to share it.) I’m not sure that the screeching half effect is as applicable in our music-listening practices, especially in this age of being tapped into our personal iTunes playlists and other tailored digital programs that have allowed us to fulfill David Bowie’s dream of being the DJ. However, when we actually spent more time in our cars, slaves to the limited options of “terrestrial radio,” we may have been more familiar with the notion of coming to a screeching halt while flipping through the radio dial. (I suspect most of our readers are old enough to have actually turned a radio dial.) Do we still think of songs in this screeching-halt sense, where we drop everything and make sure to listen closely until the song concludes?