Posted on Monday, February 15th, 2010 by Brendon Connelly
This is easily my favourite film news story of the year so far. According to reports coming out of the Berlin Film Festival, Lars von Trier and Martin Scorsese are to team up for a remake of Taxi Driver and that Robert De Niro will star, presumably still in the role of Travis Bickle.
This sounds like Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant squared, or even to the power of von Trier’s own The Five Obstructions. I hope – hell, I pray – that Scorsese or De Niro don’t pull out and scupper this.
In my dreams, Scorsese would be allowed to direct, but only under extreme restrictions set in place by von Trier. This is essentially the premise of The Five Obstructions, a film in which von Trier pushed Jørgen Leth to remake his short The Perfect Human again and again, each time with more challenging conditions limiting how he could shoot or edit the work.
I think it’s abundantly clear that von Trier has a deliberate agenda here and most likely a most amusing end game in mind, and I’d doubt very much if any of this is fuelled by admiration for Taxi Driver.
Sharing a link to Earth Times (who quote print publication Ekko), Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere describes the remake idea as “repulsive” and suggests “it’s embarassing to even float it as a joke”. On the contrary, I find even the mildest whiff of possibility here hugely appetising.
I’m definitely not a fan of Taxi Driver, finding it more like a baby that won’t stop screaming for attention than even just a clumsy toddler that can’t stand up straight. All the same, I can see the greatness of De Niro’s performance no how matter far away the rest of the picture pushes me.
It always seemed to me that Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa was a kind of Taxi Driver redux already. It was certainly infinitely preferable, with far less pleading and free of embarrassing novelty. The von Trier project would be likely to go in a completely different direction, however, and play more like a deconstruction of Scorsese’s original than a new drama we could expect to reveal itself fully without reference to the original.