|Publisher:||Faber and Faber|
|Product dimensions:||5.02(w) x 7.82(h) x 1.03(d)|
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Volume 1: Taxi Driver, American Gigolo, Light Sleeper
By Paul Schrader
faber and faber
Copyright © 2002 Paul Schrader.
All rights reserved.
Travis Bickle, aged twenty-six, lean, hard, the consummate loner. On the surface he appears good-looking, even handsome; he has a quiet steady look and a disarming smile which flashes from nowhere, lighting up his whole face. But behind that smile, around his dark eyes, in his gaunt cheeks, one can see the ominous strains caused by a life of private fear, emptiness, and loneliness. He seems to have wandered in from a land where it is always cold, a country where the inhabitants seldom speak. The head moves, the expression changes, but the eyes remain ever-fixed, unblinking, piercing empty space.
Travis is now drifting in and out of the New York City night life, a dark shadow among darker shadows. Not noticed, with no reason to be noticed, Travis is one with his surroundings. He wears rider jeans, cowboy boots, a plaid western shirt, and a worn beige Army jacket with a parch reading 'King Kong Company, 1968-70.'
He has the smell of sex about him: sick sex, repressed sex, lonely sex, but sex none the less. He is a raw male force, driving forward; toward what, one cannot tell. Then one looks closer and sees the inevitable. The clock spring cannot be wound continually tighter. As the earth moves toward the sun, Travis Bickle moves toward violence.
TRAVIS GETS A JOB
Film opens on exterior of Manhattan cab garage, Weather-beaten sign above driveway reads: 'Taxi Enter Here.' Yellow cabs scuttle in and out. It is winter, snow is piled on the curbs, the wind is howling.
Inside the garage are parked row upon row of multi-colored taxis. Echoing sounds of cabs idling, cabbies talking. Steamy breath and exhaust fill the air.
Corridor of cab company offices. Lettering on ajar door reads:
Sounds of office busy at work: shuffling, typing, arguing.
Personnel office is a cluttered disarray. Sheets with headings 'Mavis, B&W, Acme' and so forth are tacked to crumbling plaster wall. It is March. Desk is cluttered with forms, reports, and an old upright Royal typewriter.
Disheveled middle-aged New Yorker looks up from the desk. We cut in to ongoing conversation between the middle-aged personnel officer and a young man standing in front of his desk.
The young man is Travis Bickle. He wears his jeans, boots, and Army jacket. He takes a drag of his unfiltered cigarette.
The personnel officer is exhausted: he arrives at work exhausted. Travis is something else again. His intense steely gaze is enough to jar even the personnel officer out of his workaday boredom.
No trouble with the Hack Bureau?
Got your license?
So why do you want to be a taxi driver?
I can't sleep nights.
There's porno theaters for that.
I know. I tried that.
The personnel officer, though officious, is mildly probing and curious. Travis is a cipher, cold and distant. He speaks as if his mind doesn't know what his mouth is saying.
So what'ja do now?
I ride around nights mostly. Subways, buses. See things. Figured I might as well get paid for it.
We don't need any misfits around here, son.
A thin smile cracks almost indiscernibly across Travis's lips.
You kiddin'? Who else would hack through South Bronx or Harlem at night?
You want to work uptown nights?
I'll work anywhere, any time. I know I can't be choosy.
How's your driving record?
Clean. Real clean.
As clean as my conscience.
Listen, son, you gonna get smart, you can leave right now.
Sorry, sir. I didn't mean that.
Some. Here and there.
Honorable discharge. May, 1971.
No, I want long shifts.
We hire a lot of moonlighters here.
So I hear.
Hell, we ain't that much fussy anyway. There's always openings on one fleet or another.
(rummages through his drawer, collecting various pink, Fill out these forms and give them to the girl at the desk, and leave your phone number. You got a phone?
Well, then, check back tomorrow.
Credits appear over scenes from Manhattan nightlife. The snow has melted; it is spring.
A rainy, slick, wet, miserable night in Manhattan's theater district. Cabs and umbrellas are congested everywhere; well-dressed pedestrians are pushing, running, waving down taxis. The high-class theater patrons crowding out of the midtown shows are shocked to find that the same rain that falls on the poor and common is also falling on them.
The unremitting sounds of honking and shouting play against the dull pitter-patter of rain. The glare of yellow, red, and green lights reflects off the pavements and autos.
'When it rains, the boss of the City is the taxi driver' so goes the cabbies' maxim, proved true by this particular night's activity. Only the taxis seem to rise above the situation: they glide effortlessly through the rain and traffic, picking up whom they choose, spurning whom they choose, going where they please.
Further uptown, the crowds are neither so frantic nor so glittering. The rain also falls on the street bums and the aged poor. Junkies still stand around on rainy street corners, hookers still prowl rainy sidewalks. And the taxis service them too. All through the credits the exterior sounds are muted, as if coming from a distant room or storefront round the corner. The listener is at a safe but Privileged distance.
After examining various strata of Manhattan nightlife, the camera begins to close in on one particular taxi, and it is assumed that this taxi is being driven by Travis Bickle.
The credits end.
WE MEET TRAVIS
Travis's yellow taxi pulls up in the foreground. On left rear door are lettered the words 'Dependable Taxi Service.'
We are somewhere in the upper fifties on Fifth Avenue. The rain has not let up.
An elderly woman climbs in the right rear door, crushing her umbrella. Travis waits a moment, then pulls away from the curb with a start.
Later, we see Travis's taxi: speeding down the rain-slicked avenue. The action is periodically accompanied by Travis's narration. He is reading from a haphazard personal diary.
April 10, 1972. Thank God for the rain which has helped wash the garbage and trash off the sidewalks.
Travis's point of view, of sleazy midtown side street: bums, hookers, junkies.
I'm working a single now, which means stretch-shifts, six to six, sometimes six to eight in the a.m., six days a week.
A man in business suit hails Travis to the curb.
It's a hustle, but it keeps me busy. I can take in three to three-fifty a week, more with skims.
Man in business suit, now seated in back seat, speaks up.
Is Kennedy operating, cabbie? Is it grounded?
On the seat next to Travis is a half-eaten cheeseburger and order of french fries. He puts his cigarette down and gulps as he answers.
Why should it be grounded?
Listen I mean I just saw the needle of the Empire State Building. You can't see it for the fog!
Then it's a good guess it's grounded.
The Empire State in fog means something, don't it? Do you know or don't you? What is your number, cabbie?
Have you tried the telephone?
There isn't time for that. In other words, you don't know.
Well, you should know, damn it, or who else would know? Pull over right here.
Why don't you stick your goddamn head out of the goddamn window once in a while and find out about the goddamn fog!
Travis pulls to the curb. The man in business suit stuffs a dollar bill into the pay drawer and jumps out of the cab. He turns to hail another taxi.
Travis writes up his trip card and drives away.
It is later that night. The rain has turned to drizzle. Travis drives through another section of Manhattan.
I work the whole city, up, down, don't make no difference to me does to some.
Streetside: Travis's point of view. Black prostitute wearing white vinyl boots, leopard-skin mini-skirt and blonde wig, hails taxi. On her arm hangs half-drunk seedy executive type.
Travis pulls over.
Prostitute and John (the executive type) climb into back seat. Travis checks out the action in rear-view mirror.
Some won't take spooks Hell, don't make no difference to me.
Travis's taxi drives through Central Park. Grunts, groans coming from back seat. Prostitute and John going at it in back seat. He's having a hard time and she's probably trying to get him to come off manually.
Oh, baby, baby.
Travis stares blankly ahead.
Travis's apartment. Camera pans silently across the interior, indicating this is not a new scene.
Travis is sitting at plain table, writing. He wears shirt, jeans, boots. An unfiltered cigarette rests in a bent coffee-can ashtray.
Close-up of notebook. It is a plain lined dimestore notebook and the words Travis is writing with a stubby pencil are those he is saying. The columns are straight, disciplined. Some of the writing is in pencil, some in ink. The handwriting is jagged. Camera continues to pan, examining Travis's apartment. It is unusual, to say the least. A ratty old mattress is thrown against one wall. The floor is littered with old newspapers, worn and unfolded street maps, and pornography. The pornography is of the sort that looks cheap but costs $10 a throw black-and-white photos of naked women tied and gagged with black leather straps and clotheslines. There is no furniture other than the rickety chair and table. A beat-up portable TV rests on an upright melon-crate. The red silk mass in another corner looks like a Vietnamese flag. Indecipherable words, figures, numbers are scribbled on the plain plaster walls. Ragged black wires dangle from the wall where the telephone once hung.
They're all animals anyway. All the animals come out at night: whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal.
Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.
Early morning, 6 a.m. The air is clean and fresh and the streets nearly deserted.
Exterior of taxi garage. Travis's taxi pulls into the driveway.
Each night when I return the cab to the garage I have to clean the come off the back seat. Some nights I clean off the blood.
Travis pulls his taxi into taxi garage stall. He reaches across the cab and extracts a small vial of Bennies from the glove compartment.
He stands next to the cab, straightens his back, and tucks the bottle of pills into his jacket pocket. He lowers his head, looks into back seat, opens rear door, and bends inside. He shakes a cigarette out of his pack of Camels and lights it.
Slight timecut. Travis books in at garage office. Old, rotting slabs of wood are screwed to a gray crumbling concrete wall. Each available space is covered with hand-lettered signs, time schedules, check-out sheets, memos. The signs read:
A half-dozen haggard cabbies hang around the office. Their shirts are wrinkled, theft heads dropping, theft mouths incessantly chattering. We pick up snatches of cabbie small talk.
... hadda piss like a bull steer, so I pull over on 10th Ave., yank up the hood, and do the engine job.
(gestures as if taking a piss into the hood)
There I am with my dong in my hand when a guy come up and asks if I need any help. 'Just checking the battery,' I says, and, meanwhile ...
Takes imaginary piss,
If he thinks I'm going up into The Jungle this time of night, he can shove it.
Fuck that Violets First. Fucking saddle horse. No, no, the OTB. Fuck them. No, it was TKR. TCR and I'da made seven fucking grand. Fuck them too. All right, what about the second race?
Over at Love, this hooker took on the whole garage. Blew the whole fucking joint and they wouldn't even let her use the drinking fountain.
Excerpted from Collected Screenplays by Paul Schrader. Copyright © 2002 by Paul Schrader. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.