100 Greatest Scenes Number 41: “You Talking to Me?”

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Views from the Sofa’s 100 Greatest Scenes is a list of the 100 greatest moments in the movies. This could be long introductions, moments of action or great dialogue between characters. The scenes are in no particular order and come from many different types of movies.

Everybody, at one time, whether they have actually seen the scene in question or not, has said those now famous lines. It has become one of the most famous moments in cinema and a scene which is continuously referred to, cited and parodied. There is a lot more to it than just a man, with a gun, talking to himself.

Greatest Scene Number 41: Taxi Driver – “You Talking to Me?”

The scene is much more than just Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle running through imaginary moments. This is the beginning of his descent in full blown madness. He has slowly been falling through the whole film but here Bickle is planning something. His paranoia, psychosis and violent nature is coming to the fore and it can be seen clearly in a simple, one person scene.

It all begins with Bickle practicing the use of his spring-loaded gun. A simple mechanism and the gun springs from his arm and like anyone with a new gadget, he practices. The look into his inner-mind comes from where this “practicing” takes the character. It isn’t just a few arm movements and then Bickle is happy. Instead, he starts to imagine a confrontation.

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De Niro is key to the success of the scene


It is to De Niro’s credit that this scene is played so small. There is no shouting, no huge gestures and nothing that feels like it would stand the test of time. The intensity that De Niro delivers that now famous line is enough to carry it through. You can believe that Bickle sees someone. It feels like a true moment which Bickle is actually living through. What makes it so much more effective is that the camera is trained squarely on De Niro with the audience almost acting as the mirror. Bickle is talking directly to us and feels so threatening as he does it.

Of course, what makes this scene even better is that De Niro improvised it. The script called for “Bickle talks to himself” and it was De Niro who played around with the idea of him confronting someone else. As with many things in movies, the best aspects often come from what feels natural on the day and De Niro nailed it here.

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It is amazing to think that the one, key line is improvised


It is easy to forget that this is intercut with Bickle’s mad rambling and writings. The movie cuts back and forth, repeats slight moments and director Scorcese begins to ably demonstrate the crazed nature of Bickle. Not that he needs to, the man talking in the mirror does this already.

Overall, Taxi Driver’s most famous scene is an iconic actor, improvising into a mirror but it is fantastic. Not just a cool, often mimicked moment but one that manages to show how crazy Bickle really is. A good example of how great an actor De Niro really is.

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Anytime someone looks in a mirror…




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