Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Greatest City in the World

In anticipation of a business trip to New York City in early June, I Googled the terms "TAXI DRIVER NYC locations," and found this cool blog called "Scouting New York."

The site belongs to Nick Carr, a NYC movie location scout. If you've ever wanted to dive deep into Gotham, this is a great spring board. Simply, this guy's been everywhere in New York City and catalogs these locations with photojournalist precision.

On the site, I stumbled upon his series called "New York, You've Changed - TAXI DRIVER." This three-part series is amazing in scope as Carr gives you a personal tour of the same streets/locations that Travis Bickle scoured in the Martin Scorsese film from 1976. Of course, things change and none - I repeat - none of the film's locations are remotely recognizable today.

On the off-chance that you haven't seen TAXI DRIVER, the film portrays a long-gone and hellish Midtown Manhattan - particularly around Times Square, 42nd Street and 7th and 8th Avenues - as an acid trip oozing inferno, shadowy and claustrophobic yet aflame in garish, lurid neon.

Its seductive palette drips lysergically as Travis melts down the always wet city streets. The film is an ode to Michael Chapman's brilliant cinematography, which squeezed as much color onto the screen as possible using a spherical cinematographic process with Arriflex cameras equipped with Zeiss lenses in 35 mm. The use of slow motion in TAXI DRIVER is legend and as influential as the Sam Peckinpah directed and Lucien Ballard shot THE WILD BUNCH.

Yes, today, Times Square and surrounding are brightly lit but looming with cartoon characters (think M&M's World), huge LCD screens prompting commercialism and marketing while exuding no underbelly menace, which is the film's brilliant undercurrent.

Carr laments this loss and his TAXI DRIVER posts are punctuated with a sort of nostalgic anger at how this area has devolved (while some would say the area has actually evolved into something - on the surface anyway - that's bizarre yet family-friendly).

Obviously Times Square in the mid-70s was not the tourist-driven mecca that it is today. Back then, if you were hearty of soul and not weak of stomach, Midtown was a Sleazoid Express destination spot, crawling with insectile inhabitants that only came out at night - zombies drawn to the most prurient existence.

Now its filled with zombies influenced by the most powerful marketers driven by the most powerful brands.

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