Films of the week: Down these unclean streets, a man must go in Taxi Driver


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The Independent Culture


Taxi Driver

11.55pm Sky Movies Greats

(Martin Scorsese, 1976) Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is an insomniac, solipsistic Vietnam veteran who has a violent psychotic episode in response to the moral degeneracy he perceives while working nights as a New York City cab driver. He's one of US cinema's most complex and iconic anti-heroes, and Martin Scorsese's vivid and expressionistic depiction of his emotional state is one of his true masterpieces. *****


A Fistful of Dollars

9pm Channel 5

(Sergio Leone, 1964) Fusing John Ford (epic landscape vistas; the strong, silent hero) with Akira Kurosawa (extreme close-ups; the plot of Yojimbo), Sergio Leone invented a vivid and bizarre new form all of his own: the spaghetti Western. Clint Eastwood's star-making turn and Ennio Morricone's score more than compensate for any bad dubbing, poor acting and rough edges elsewhere.  *****



10.20pm ITV

(Asif Kapadia, 2010) This documentary about the short but glorious career of the three-times champion Formula One driver Ayrton Senna is thrillingly immediate and emotionally compelling. It even describes the state of grace that the devoutly Catholic Senna said he achieved during races, and that his teammate and great rival Alain Prost feared used to make him feel immortal.  ****


Short Cuts

11pm TCM

(Robert Altman, 1993) Freely adapting and then deftly weaving together 10 of Raymond Carver's minimalist short stories about emotionally inarticulate characters, relocating them to contemporary suburban California, injecting a little humour, and having an all-star cast (including Lili Taylor, Robert Downey Jr, Chris Penn and Jennifer Jason Leigh), this tragicomic account of life's rich tapestry is one of the best films of the Nineties. *****


The Third Man

1.05pm Film4

(Carol Reed, 1949) Filmed at off-kilter angles and in expressive black-and-white amid the rubble and division of post-war Vienna, Carol Reed's superlative melancholy thriller, from Graham Greene's script, sees Joseph Cotten get in over his head as he looks into the death of his old school friend, Harry Lime. Leave it to Orson Welles to make one of the all-time great movie entrances. *****


Night Mail

5.30pm Sky Arts 2

(Harry Watt, Basil Wright, 1936) "This is the Night Mail crossing the border/ Bringing the cheque and the postal order..." A documentary about the travelling post office on the LMS Railway, Night Mail was the apotheosis of the GPO Film Unit's taste for formal experimentation. A wonderfully evocative montage of images soundtracked by Benjamin Britten and WH Auden, it is British social history as filmic poetry. *****


Point Blank

12.10am BBC2

(John Boorman, 1967) Having been double-crossed and left for dead by his partners, Walker (Lee Marvin) wakes up and sets out for revenge, killing his way to the top of a shadowy hierarchy known simply as the Organisation. Heavily influenced by the French New Wave, John Boorman's existential crime film remains one of Hollywood's most avant-garde and dazzling thrillers. *****