BY CLAIRE WARD-BEVERIDGE
Movies have always loomed large for me ever since I was about 3 years old, sobbing in a theatre watching The Land Before Time. I could be giving my toddler self a lot more credit here, but I really do feel that it was more than just the mother dinosaur’s death that had an impact on me. The soundtrack, the colours, the theatrics — everything just grabbed me and held me ever so tightly for those 70 minutes.
My parents are massive film fanatics and definitely instilled a certain reverence in me that I still feel very strongly today. Even though I always loved watching movies, a feeling which grew stronger and more essential as I moved into my teenage years, I never felt something quite so jarring as I did when I started watching Taxi Driver.
I think I first watched it with my parents and I don’t think it was in its entirety, but I remember watching one bit in particular and feeling my stomach/heart/chest constrict in a way that profoundly changed how I felt about cinema. It’s the scene where Travis gets up the nerve to go talk to/hit on Betsy at the Palantine campaign office. He’s hovering over her desk, giving her a sales pitch on going out with him. At one point, he waves his hand over her desk while he’s talking and we cut to an overhead shot of his hand moving in a slight arc across the table. My dad pointed it out and it hit me really hard. I’d never really seen anything like it before and it had an odd beauty to it.
After that, I definitely fell in love with that movie for a while. And it’s a little embarrassing for me to have that movie as “the one” —how fucking clichéd can you get? But I couldn’t help myself. I would come home late at night and run the VHS copy I had bought over and over again. I remember sitting on my parents’ couch in complete darkness, slightly stoned and languid from a night of walking around downtown with my friends and watching it. Sometimes it was just a few minutes or a couple of scenes. But it hit all these marks for me that I didn’t even know existed — the odd, overwrought, sermonizing monologues; the soundtrack; the cinematography; and especially the violence.
I had mixed feelings about loving Taxi Driver at the time, as I do now, so I always watched it alone, on the edge of my seat, half-anticipating to suddenly get up and turn it off. It was like it had me pegged, like my parents had me pegged — there was no thrillingly rebellious aspect to loving it and there was something deeply disappointing about knowing that. Still, I couldn’t stay away no matter what.I wish there was some way to quantify such things in one’s life without being Rain Man, but if I had to guess I would say I’ve seen it at least 15 times from start to finish.
I watched it again fairly recently and it held up, as it should. But it was a strange experience —I was sort of half-cringing through scenes that used to make my 16-year-old heart swoon with astonishment and joy and I wasn’t sure if it was the scene itself or remembering my unsophisticated feelings about it that was somewhat difficult to stomach. You just can’t beat a pure, teenage experience of films.
Claire Ward-Beveridge is a freelance writer & photographer who lives in North Parkdale, Toronto and her rattled brain. She loves Werner Herzog and depressing English dramas. Follow her @clairewarb.