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post #1 of 42 Old 03-25-2011, 11:25 AM - Thread Starter
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attachment.php?attachmentid=206630&d=1301076282
The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

Audio/Video total rating:

 

( Max score: 100 )

 

90

 

 

 

 


Studio and Year: Columbia Pictures - 1976
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 114 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p/24


Audio Format(s): English/French/Portuguese DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai
Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, Leonard Harris, Peter Boyle, Cybill Shepherd
Directed by: Martin Scorese
Music by: Bernard Herrmann
Written by: Paul Schrader
Region Code: A,B,C

Blu-ray Disc release Date: April 5, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"On every street in every city, there's a nobody who dreams of being a somebody. He's a lonely forgotten man desperate to prove that he's alive."

 

 

Film Synopsis:

 

 

Nominated for four 1976 Academy Awards (including Best Picture), Taxi Driver stars Robert de Niro, and chronicles the mental deterioration of a man driven to violence by loneliness and desperation. Powered by an evocative score and featuring stellar performances by Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle, and Cybill Shepherd.

 

 

My Take:

 

 

At 26, Vietnam veteran Travis Bickle (De Niro) is slipping slowly into isolation and violence on the streets of New York City. Trying to solve his insomnia by driving a yellow cab on the night shift, he grows increasingly disgusted by the people who hang out at night: “Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets.” His touching attempts to woo Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a Senator's campaign worker, turn sour when he takes her to a porn movie on their first date. He even fails in his attempt to persuade child prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster) to desert her pimp, Sport (Harvey Keitel), and return to her parents and school. Driven to the edge by powerlessness, he buys four handguns and sets out to assassinate the Senator, heading for the infamy of a “lone crazed gunman.”

Here is another example of a cinematic classic that I have never seen in its entirety until now. Wow. This is an incredible film experience that is justly deserving of the accolades bestowed upon it. Scorsese is a visionary filmmaker with a master craftsman’s touch. This film, like its subject, is gritty, raw, disturbing and compelling, all at the same time. It takes us on a journey into the psyche of an individual whose motivations are probably never completely understood (even by himself). Scorsese allows us an up close and personal look that is occasionally unsettling in its graphic depiction. Travis Bickel has become a sort of iconic symbol of the stalking psychopathic type that most envision when they think of those capable of disturbing acts of violence. The taxicab stands as a metaphor for the drifting loner that goes everywhere but gets nowhere. Here is a young man who is clearly disturbed which seems to go unnoticed by those around him. The girl he wants he can’t have and the girl he can have he rightfully doesn’t want. He isn’t without moral conscience but his compass doesn’t exactly face north either. The defining purpose for him is to seek out those he sees as the dominant figures in Betsy and Iris’ lives and eliminate their interference. Travis walks a very fine line on both counts since success can mean very different things and does as evidenced by the outcome. His thoughts are poured out into his journal and offer insights into his troubled thoughts and skewed perspectives which allow a surface level understanding of his torment (“Loneliness has followed me my whole life”).

The superlative Academy Award nominated performance by Robert De Niro carries the film and exemplifies his stalwart devotion to his craft. Michael Chapman’s magnificent cinematography faithfully captures mid 1970’s New York City and is an integral part of the film. The remaining cast, Cybill Shepherd, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, and Peter Boyle are strong in support. I must say that I didn’t find Martin Scorsese’s cameo (in the cab with Travis) to be very impressive. It was overplayed, too long and felt like it should have been a deleted scene since it sort of disrupted the film’s flow. Oh well. It took me thirty five years to finally sit down and watch Taxi Driver and the wait was well worth it. It’s a modern classic that garnered four Academy Award nominations, appears on several of the American Film Institutes top 100 lists and is considered by many to be a cinematic masterpiece. I whole heartedly agree.

 

 

 

Parental Guide:

 

 

 

This film contains graphic violence, language, and thematic material that would be inappropriate for young viewers.

 

 

 

 


AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio: 86

 

 

 


  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109944&d=1210373647

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373647

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

 

 

 

 

 

Video: 94


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

 

 

 

 

 


  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

 

 

Taxi Driver comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.1 Mbps.

Taxi Driver recently underwent an extensive 4K digital restoration/re-mastering which was overseen by cinematographer Michael Chapman and Martin Scorsese and the results are superb. The film’s period colors are naturally depicted with vivid textures and pleasing primaries that appear rich without over emphasis. Fleshtones appear lifelike with a mildly warm essence that conveys rosy complexions that don’t appear unnaturally pinkish. Images are noticeably detailed and sharp which draws out plenty of delineation and texture within clothing, physical features, and objects onscreen. Long range visuals are resolved with above average clarity and depth which highlights the film’s superlative cinematography. Contrast is spot on and blacks exhibit excellent dynamic range and pop nicely when onscreen with mixed content. Dark sequences have appreciable dimension and sufficient shadow detail that combine with the video’s higher resolution to enhance depth perception. The video has an undisturbed and visibly grainy texture that occasionally takes on more emphasis but I never found it bothersome. Other than a hand full of shots where innate softening creeps in this 1080p encoding looks amazing.

The high resolution DTS-HD MA audio mix does a terrific job rendering the film’s soundtrack. Dialogue has discernible intonation, with distinctive clarity and above average room penetration. This is a more or less front oriented presentation that makes good use of the entire system to deliver a seamlessly integrated audio experience that is highlighted by the richness and defining clarity of Bernard Hermann’s memorable music score. The surrounds are utilized for atmospheric extension that creates an enveloping presence that appreciably enhances the music while robust dynamic range and low frequency effects combine to provide good solidity and weight to the audio without sounding unnatural. These primarily come in the form of bass content associated with the orchestration and to a lesser degree in support of recorded elements that contain lower bass response. I was extremely pleased with the outcome of this audio presentation. It highlights the strengths of the source material without ostentatious display and sounds great.

 

 

Bonus Features:

 

 

This single Blu-ray Disc release comes from Sony in a handsome tri-fold hardcover book style keep case that also includes color and black-and-white lobby card reprints.


  • Blu-ray Exclusive: Interactive script to screen feature - The script will automatically scroll as the film plays so you can read along and discover the stage direction notes along with differences from the original script to the finished film.

  • Original 1986 Commentary with Director Martin Scorsese and Writer Paul Schrader recorded by The Criterion Collection

  • Commentary with Professor Robert Kolker

  • Commentary with writer Paul Schrader

  • (HD) Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver - 17 minute featurette

  • (HD) Producing Taxi Driver - 10 minute featurette

  • (HD) God‘s lonely man - 21 minute featurette

  • (HD) Influence and appreciation: A Martin Scorsese Tribute - 18 minutes

  • (HD) Taxi Driver stories - 22 minute documentary featuring real NY City cab drivers

  • Making Taxi Driver - 71 minute Documentary

  • (HD) Travis‘ New York - 6 minute feature

  • (HD) Travis‘ New York locations - Comparative 1975 versus 2006

  • (HD) Introduction to storyboards with Martin Scorsese - 4 minutes

  • (HD) Storyboard to film comparisons - 8 minutes

  • (HD) Galleries - 4 segments

  • Movie IQ

  • BD-Live enabled

 

 

 

 

attachment.php?attachmentid=206631&d=1301076282

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts:

Taxi Driver is a classic piece of American Cinema that defines the conjoining of master filmmaker Martin Scorsese and acting icon Robert De Niro. It comes to Blu-ray on its 35th anniversary and Sony appears to have faithfully preserved the film’s original elements in this wonderfully restored/re-mastered high definition presentation that looks marvelous and sounds terrific. The excellent supplemental offering includes a combination of exclusive and previously released content that provides background on the production from a soup to nuts perspective as told through interviews with the cast and crew. MovieIQ functionality and BD-Live access round out a spectacular Blu-ray Disc catalog offering that gets my highest recommendation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


attachment.php?attachmentid=109949&d=1210373731






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post #2 of 42 Old 03-25-2011, 12:04 PM
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You talkin' to me?
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post #3 of 42 Old 03-25-2011, 12:19 PM
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Oh hell yes.


I'll probably buy two copies
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post #4 of 42 Old 03-25-2011, 12:45 PM
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Tom sum this movie in a few words...

1. Robert De Niro
2. Robert De Niro
3. Winning duh!!
3. Bad A$$!

I've only seen bits and pieces of this movie but from what i saw this is a definite must have for a collection. This is probably where they got the concept for the movie "Falling Down"(Michael Douglas).

Cheers
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post #5 of 42 Old 03-25-2011, 01:38 PM
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This is one of those films that I've always been curious about but have never seen before. Looks like I'll be adding this one to my queue based on the review. Thanks Ralph.

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post #6 of 42 Old 03-25-2011, 02:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JamE55 View Post

Tom sum this movie in a few words...

1. Robert De Niro
2. Robert De Niro
3. Winning duh!!
3. Bad A$$!

I've only seen bits and pieces of this movie but from what i saw this is a definite must have for a collection. This is probably where they got the concept for the movie "Falling Down"(Michael Douglas).

Cheers

There's much more to this movie that De Niro's superb performance. Jodie Foster is excellent. So are the cinematography and Bernard Hermann's score (his last).

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post #7 of 42 Old 03-25-2011, 04:13 PM
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Saw this last year, late night cable...missed first 20 minutes of it..but still enjoyable. Man its going to be an expensive month for April.

Thanks King P for makin' it happen
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post #8 of 42 Old 03-25-2011, 08:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Spankenstein View Post

You talkin' to me?


You know what's funny, when films, shows, etc say those line they continue it with " I don't see anyone around me, so you must be talking to me" ,

But when I watched this, he only says You talkin to me? Unless I wanted so butched up version, why the hell do people ad more to those great lines

Who cares, Ralph awesome review...I'm getting this one

Djoel
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post #9 of 42 Old 03-25-2011, 10:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Djoel View Post

You know what's funny, when films, shows, etc say those line they continue it with " I don't see anyone around me, so you must be talking to me" ,

But when I watched this, he only says You talkin to me? Unless I wanted so butched up version, why the hell do people ad more to those great lines

I don't know if your being serious about this, but De Niro does say more than just "You Talkin' to Me".


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post #10 of 42 Old 03-26-2011, 07:35 AM
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"My name is Henry Krinkle" "That's "K" "R "I" "N" "K" "L" "E""
One of the best films ever.

I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubblegum .
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post #11 of 42 Old 03-26-2011, 09:32 AM
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Ralph -- Thanks for your great review. I agree with you entirely about the wonders of Taxi Driver, it is a masterpiece, one of the all time great films. Thanks to the high marks you have given its audio and video, I just ordered the Taxi Driver BD from Amazon.

I have noticed in recent months that the BD editions of more and more classic films are being sold on Amazon for reasonable prices. For example, today, in addition to the not yet released Taxi Driver, I ordered the BD editions of Apocalypse Now and The Shining for an average price for all 3 films of about $13 each. Not too shabby. Not long ago I ordered The Die Hard Collection, containing all four Die Hard films, Moon, and L.A. Confidential for an average price of less than $8.50 per film. At those kinds of prices its nice to be able to own the BDs of these classic films.
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post #12 of 42 Old 03-26-2011, 03:52 PM
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I saw this a couple of weeks ago on the big screen at my local theater. It was the 4k restored version in a digital theater and it looked great. I think Ralph's review is right on target.
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Im embarrassed to say Ive never seen this film. Going by the reviews im going to have to blind buy it.

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post #14 of 42 Old 03-27-2011, 09:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Franin View Post
Im embarrassed to say Ive never seen this film. Going by the reviews im going to have to blind buy it.
You won't regret it. As you watch Travis Bickle in action you will, alternately, cringe at his social clumsiness, recoil at his craziness, and laugh out loud at him. It's great, great stuff.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Djoel View Post
You know what's funny, when films, shows, etc say those line they continue it with " I don't see anyone around me, so you must be talking to me" ,

But when I watched this, he only says You talkin to me? Unless I wanted so butched up version, why the hell do people ad more to those great lines

Who cares, Ralph awesome review...I'm getting this one

Djoel
the mirror scene has that, I beleive.

The scene you are referring to is in a different part of the movie

A great flick. Something of a black comedy, but also a great flick from the standpoint of someone who is becoming psychotic in the worst sort of way.
reminds me of what happenned in Arizona

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post #16 of 42 Old 03-28-2011, 05:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gwsat View Post

You won't regret it. As you watch Travis Bickle in action you will, alternately, cringe at his social clumsiness, recoil at his craziness, and laugh out loud at him. It's great, great stuff.

Thanks gwsat for that. I have know pre ordered it looking forward to receive it soon.

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post #17 of 42 Old 03-28-2011, 10:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Franin View Post

Thanks gwsat for that. I have know pre ordered it looking forward to receive it soon.

I am looking forward to getting my copy, too. It passes the test every great film must, its get better every time you see it.
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Bass must be killer!

Evil is Good
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post #19 of 42 Old 03-28-2011, 01:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HVisone View Post

the mirror scene has that, I beleive.

The scene you are referring to is in a different part of the movie

A great flick. Something of a black comedy, but also a great flick from the standpoint of someone who is becoming psychotic in the worst sort of way.
reminds me of what happenned in Arizona

It's been a while I've watched this, it's always great to see NYC almost 35 years ago..

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post #20 of 42 Old 03-28-2011, 07:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenshiro 26 View Post

I don't know if your being serious about this, but De Niro does say more than just "You Talkin' to Me".



Yeah I know he says more than you're talking to me, but imitators usually add stuff that isn't in the scrip...Not that I can name any of them..It's just funny that later on I thought it was actual words that came from the film..You're talking to me? You're talking to me? I don't see any one around me so you must be talking to me? Not a big issue, it's just odd how some lines to a life of their own.

Thanks for the link, priceless


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post #21 of 42 Old 03-29-2011, 09:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Djoel View Post

Yeah I know he says more than you're talking to me, but imitators usually add stuff that isn't in the scrip[t]...Not that I can name any of them..It's just funny that later on I thought it was actual words that came from the film..You're talking to me? You're talking to me? I don't see any one around me so you must be talking to me? Not a big issue, it's just odd how some lines to a life of their own.

You are right. For example, for many years most people took as a given that Boggie had said "Play it again Sam" to the piano player in Casablanca, although that now famous line wasn't in the film.
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post #22 of 42 Old 03-29-2011, 09:37 AM
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Obviously a classic and I'm glad the Blue Ray received the attention a film of this caliber deserves. For those of you in the NYC area, the Film Forum has been showing a fully restored 35mm print of this film for the last month and the run ends on March 31st. While I'm sure the Blue Ray is beautiful, there is nothing like experiencing Taxi Driver on the big screen with a captive audience. An absolute gem!
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post #23 of 42 Old 03-29-2011, 12:56 PM
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Wish they could have ported those extras to a second disc. I don't really care I guess as I don't invest much in bluray but it could have been better. That 4K restoration deserves its own damn disc and I don't care what anybody thinks.
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post #24 of 42 Old 03-29-2011, 04:35 PM
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I'm really surprised to see how many here have never seen this movie! It's always been one of those films that one just assumes the majority of film fans have seen (Like WIZARD OF OZ, CITIZEN KANE, PLANET OF THE APES, etc. etc.)

If this release does nothing more than bring in new viewers, I'm grateful it will be seen with such great PQ and AQ. As one who has seen this film on it's original theatrical release (the violence at the end was a shocker back then), as well as having fond memories of NYC in those carefree days, I'm more than happy to pony up for this disc.

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post #25 of 42 Old 03-31-2011, 09:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Djoel View Post

Yeah I know he says more than you're talking to me, but imitators usually add stuff that isn't in the scrip...Not that I can name any of them..It's just funny that later on I thought it was actual words that came from the film..You're talking to me? You're talking to me? I don't see any one around me so you must be talking to me? Not a big issue, it's just odd how some lines to a life of their own.

Thanks for the link, priceless


Djoel

You may have been thinking of one of these classic reenactments...





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post #26 of 42 Old 03-31-2011, 11:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Rainville View Post

You may have been thinking of one of these classic reenactments...






You beat me to it. I was just going to say that a lot of people refer to the spoof when doing movie lines.

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post #27 of 42 Old 03-31-2011, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by benclement11 View Post

You beat me to it. I was just going to say that a lot of people refer to the spoof when doing movie lines.

That's right. The lines used in send ups of old movies that use a line not in the film often become more famous than the correct original line was. For example, the "Play it again, Sam" non line from Casablanca was even memorialized in an old Woody Allen film of the same name.
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post #28 of 42 Old 04-08-2011, 07:34 AM
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It's $12.99 in the states basically no matter whatever retailer you choose. I forgot to pick it up but that will be rectified today!
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post #29 of 42 Old 04-20-2011, 06:40 AM
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This is one of my favorite films of all time, so I was really pleased that it became available on Blu-ray recently. I watched it last night on my Kuro and I must say they did a fantastic job in the mastering process for this disc. I saw a 35mm print of this film in a theater some years ago in Dallas. It was decent, but the print showed signs of some aging. The detail that you can see in this new Blu-ray version is incredible. My only very minor criticism of the disc is that I wish they provided an original uncompressed sound mix. However, I feel the new DTS HD MA 5.1 sound mix is excellent. I feel that Blu-ray gives new life to classic films, especially when it's done correctly.
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post #30 of 42 Old 04-20-2011, 11:01 AM
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Here's an interview Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits did with Grover Crisp about the 4K restoration and Blu-ray release of Taxi Driver, interesting read.

http://thedigitalbits.com/articles/t...interview.html

I'll post it here, but spoiler it for size.

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Sony's Grover Crisp understands the science and art of film restoration as well as anyone working in Hollywood today. As the Senior VP for Asset Management, Film Restoration and Digital Mastering for Sony Pictures Entertainment, he's personally supervised scores of great film restoration efforts for the studio - both physical and digital - including such classics as The Bridge on the River Kwai and Jason and the Argonauts. Most recently, Crisp and his team have completed an effort to restore and preserve director Martin Scorsese's acclaimed 1976 drama Taxi Driver. The result of that work will be released on Blu-ray Disc by Sony on April 5th. We've long admired his work here at The Digital Bits, and we're very pleased to say that Crisp has been kind enough to answer some questions for us about the Taxi Driver restoration effort. We hope you enjoy it!

---

Q: Has Taxi Driver actually been fully restored and remastered, or just re-transferred in high-definition?

A: This film was not just transferred in High Definition. Not that many films have gone through this particular process and this is only the third one for us, after Dr. Strangelove and The Bridge on the River Kwai, though others are already in the works. By process, I mean a full 4K workflow with no downrezing. Especially scanning at 4K, it preserves the essential resolution of the 35mm negative. The resulting HD master used for the Blu-ray authoring was derived directly from the final 4K files.

Q: You mentioned 4K - when talking about film restoration in the digital space, much attention is paid to the resolution involved. Given the need to balance budget, quality and future archival needs, how do you decide which resolution - 2K, 4K, even 6K and higher - is the optimal one in which to work for any given film? What considerations made 4K the right choice for Taxi Driver?

A: We have really looked at all the options over the last few years and our conclusion, which is not unique to us, of course, is that film, regardless of what the particular element is, needs to be scanned at 4K at a minimum. That's why Colorworks at the studio, where all of the Taxi Driver work eventually came together, was built as a full 4K digital facility. If you look at some of the tests available, especially those published by Arri the last couple of years, you realize what is being lost by scanning at a lower resolution for 35mm film. Plus, the concept of oversampling comes into play. So, we scan all our 35mm material, whether it is a big restoration or just a re-mastering project for Blu-ray, at 4K. But, depending on the material you are working with, it may be beneficial to actually scan at even higher resolutions, while larger formats, like 65mm, may require higher resolutions in order to accurately capture the information in the film frame.

Q: What was the most difficult aspect of working digitally at a 4K resolution?

A: Working in 4K data can be a challenge because it is a lot of data to manipulate, but it is something that can be controlled. The most difficult part of any of this kind of work is always to fix things that could not be fixed before and to have it be seamless. A digital repair done incorrectly will draw attention to itself and the goal is always to put things back properly so that it is virtually invisible to the viewer. Sometimes, the nature of the film problems are so severe as to make this practically impossible, but at least that is always the goal.

Q: Were director Martin Scorsese or cinematographer Michael Chapman involved in the restoration? Can you talk about the extent of Scorsese's involvement?

A: Yes, they were both involved, at different times, during the work. Whenever we work on a restoration we involve the filmmakers, if it is at all possible, especially the cinematographer and director. We would not work on this without Scorsese's input, of course. We ran the original 4K samples by him and had follow-up discussions and viewings. He was very much interested in this film looking like it really is, a product of the time and place in which it was made. We were trying to be careful to present it as it would have looked in 1976, albeit with a much cleaner and fuller image than one would have experienced from third generation release prints of the time. That is one reason why the Columbia lady logo at the beginning of the film is degraded and soft looking, because that is exactly what it was in 1976, and we agreed with the director on those kinds of decisions.

Q: Given that Scorsese is such a champion of film restoration and preservation, was he surprised at how much work was required to properly restore Taxi Driver? What was his reaction upon seeing the finished work?

A: Well, he is not just a champion of the work, he actually gets seriously involved in many of the projects that The Film Foundation works on. So, he has a really great background at this point in terms of the issues involved, solutions available and so forth. He's pretty savvy when it comes to understanding how films from different periods, and at different studios, may have been treated and what to expect. With Taxi Driver, of course, it was not a project of The Film Foundation and was completely funded by Sony Pictures and overseen by me. With that in mind, he was pretty much treated like we would any artist in that we wanted his involvement and input so that we (hopefully) get it right. His comments back to us were quite insightful and valuable, and he seemed to like the ultimate results, though I certainly can't answer on his behalf.

Q: What was the biggest technical challenge you faced in restoring this film and preparing it for release on Blu-ray?

A: There were enormous scratches running through some scenes that were difficult to remove. It almost never fails that when a film is scratched, it is right down the middle of a character's face - never way over to the side of the frame as you would hope. So, those kinds of things are difficult to achieve without altering the underlying structure of the emulsion. This film had several things like that wrong with it. Thousands of instances of minus density dirt specs were embedded in the emulsion of the negative, some of which can be removed easily and most not. We also found that the film had lost frames in several places over the years and discovered that there were long ago efforts to take care of torn frames by just cutting them out. We located the torn frames, reinserted them and digitally repaired the frames. A common approach years ago to issues like that was to just remove the damaged frames and pull up the audio to match it and, basically, unless you knew the film really well, you would not necessarily notice this. But, it was surprising with this film how much of that was done.

Q: Is there a particular instance in Taxi Driver that benefited the most from this recent restoration?

A: The scratches and tears to the original negative - damage that could not be fixed through a traditional film laboratory approach. Working in an all digital workflow, it allows us to get to very minute particles of dirt or abrasions, as well as long stretches of film that can be difficult to repair. A lot of work on a film like this is done one frame at a time by individuals sitting looking at images on their digital restoration workstations.

Q: Some older films that have been re-mastered for Blu-ray have generated controversy because of changes to the way they were released previously, especially where color is concerned. Were similar changes made on Taxi Driver?

A: I can't speak about the other films. For Taxi Driver, what I can say is that I think this upcoming release is the most authentic to the way the film looked when it was originally released. Previous releases on DVD were from an older transfer, about ten years ago, that was not subject to the supervision that we insist on and did not involve the filmmakers as we do now. We researched and based decisions on prints from the original negative and release, plus had the cinematographer and director involved in each phase of work. So, the film looks the way they see it, especially from the director's perspective.

Q: Much has been made of the decision to alter the color of the shooting scene at the end of the film to get an R rating in 1976. Why didn't you restore it to the originally-shot, more colorful scene?

A: There are a couple of answers to this. One, which we discussed, was the goal of presenting the film as it was released, which is the version everyone basically knows. This comes up every now and then, but the director feels it best to leave the film as it is. That decision is fine with me. However, there is an impression from some who think we could easily "pump" the color back into that scene and that is not as easy as it sounds. The film was not just printed darker, or with muted colors, as some think. There are two sections of the original negative that were removed from the cut and assembled camera negative. One is the long shot where the cab pulls up, Bickle walks over to Sport, they argue, he shoots him, then he walks back and sits on a stoop. That is all one shot that was removed. The second section removed begins with the shot of the interior of the apartment building where he shoots the hood in the hand and all the shots following this down to the final one of the overhead crowd shot outside - that entire sequence was removed as assembled. These two sections of original camera negative were then sent to TVC, a small lab in New York, where it went through a Chemtone process, a chemical treatment that somewhat opens shadows allowing for greater density and lower contrast, for the most part. The exact process was a bit clouded by TVC as a proprietary service, but it usually involved original processing and, at this point, the negative was already finished. Whatever the actual processes, what I can say is that they delivered back duplicate negatives of these two sections, with the long sequence, in effect, now an optical dupe and with the desired color and density built into it. So, literally, when printing this film at a lab then (or now), there was no way to grade it and print it the way it was shot. Those muted colors are built into the dupe negative and it doesn't work to try to print it otherwise. We also searched many times over the years for the original negative that was removed, but to no avail. Likely, it was junked at TVC at the time.

Q: What about for the Blu-ray - couldn't you just re-do the color with today's technology?

A: No, the same situation exists in that environment. You can't really successfully pump a color into a film that isn't there. There were attempts, to some degree, to put more red into that scene on older transfers of the film (the most recent almost ten years ago, and without talent involvement) and you can see those results in DVDs that were released. There is more red than should be there, but the red is everywhere, in the walls, clothing, skin, hair, etc., and that is what happens when you try to force a color into an image that really isn't present. This Blu-ray release is actually closer to what it looked like in 1976 than any previous home video release, and not just for the color. The well-know "you talkin' to me" scene, for example, was seriously cropped on older editions. All those shots are actually from the camera looking at his reflection in the mirror, not straight on of him while he talks, and they cropped out the side of the mirror and zoomed in to the point where he had slightly more headroom, but you could barely see the gun he's holding. We don't agree with that kind of framing manipulation, so we framed it properly for 1.85 SMPTE standards for projection and now you will see the image as you would in a theater, which is the way it should be.

Q: Was the Blu-ray release part of the reason why Taxi Driver has been restored at this time?

A: It was a factor, of course, but at Sony Pictures we have had a long-term plan of restoring our library so that it can be made available and also preserved for the future. These films are coming out on Blu-ray and many more are planned. This film, for example, is getting a major re-release (major by older title standards, that is) at AMC theaters around the country that are equipped to project 4K DCPs, and I don't recall a such a wide release like that before, relatively speaking.

Q: In general, how much has the advent of Blu-ray affected the film restoration process?

A: Blu-ray is a wonderful format that allows the viewer to experience a film much closer to what the theatrical experience is like. The higher resolution in both picture and sound also means that we need to provide the best quality materials in order for the format to work at its maximum. What this means for restoration is that we can now work to provide better materials than would have been necessary in the past. Blu-ray and restoration really go hand-in-hand in that regard.

Q: So much is made these days of the use of grain or "noise" reduction in Blu-ray masters. It's a complicated topic, frankly, that I think is not well understood by most Blu-ray consumers and film enthusiasts. Sometimes the process is used to achieve a "cleaner" look in a catalog film presentation, and often it's used simply to aid in compression. What's your perspective on the issue, and how does it apply to your work on Taxi Driver and other Sony titles?

A: I think our scanning rates and workflow processes have somewhat ameliorated the issue of graininess. Having said that, though, we don't take the position that grain is an automatic "problem", and we usually just leave it alone. We are aware of all the tools for this and are open to testing them, but the use of such tools should be limited and spare. Ultimately, unless there is a really compelling reason to alter the grain (and I don't think just to aid compression is a compelling reason), we don't, and I can't really see that that decision has hurt us when it comes to reviews of our Blu-ray releases. Just the opposite, it seems. I think there are ways of mastering a film that enables you to make the best of what you have to work with and we follow that path. I really do not like the super clean, waxy look that is often the result of over-processing. It not only buries detail, but it gives the film an odd feel to it, an artificial feel, that I think detracts from the achievement of the filmmakers and is distracting to discerning viewers, all of which ultimately just cheats the audience. Most filmmakers know what they are doing with the resources at hand and our job, after all, is to replicate the vision of the filmmaker, not to impose our own aesthetic outlook on a film. People are entitled to their opinion on this subject, and lots of people have opinions on this, but we try to take a fairly authentic and neutral approach to every title - and they all differ in certain ways - so that each title looks, feels, sounds, like a product of its time and place, while trying to make them look their absolute best on Blu-ray. And, that's kind of what it's about, you know? I don't think Taxi Driver is a particularly grainy film, so there was really nothing to do in that regard.

Q: What is the downside to digital restoration, if any?

A: There can be a downside to just about any process when it comes to anything digital. Anyone one who has ever had a hard drive crash will understand that. But I think the main thing to be careful about with digital restoration - which we have been involved with at Sony Pictures for the last 20 years - is just that: to be careful. Digital tools are quite powerful and we need to be careful that we are controlling these processes and not let them control us.

Q: Can you talk about the audio restoration process for Taxi Driver? Were there any unique challenges involved on the audio side of the effort?

A: The audio restoration was completed at Chace Audio by Deluxe in Burbank, which is a restoration facility that has worked on many titles for all the studios over the years. Like with all other aspects of a restoration project, we treat the audio much as we do picture in that we plow through everything we have to come up with the best material to work from. That could be one element or more, or a mix and match of various components of different elements. For this, the best was the original mono magnetic master with split dialogue, effects and music. However, I had found years earlier the original 4-track stereo recordings of the score, on audio tape, not magnetic film, so that was incorporated into the process, all of the material going through a standard digital cleanup to remove pops, clicks, distortion when possible, things like that. In this particular case, Scorsese had his own audio experts create the 5.1 track from the restored elements that will be on the Blu-ray, created here at the Sony Studios Sound department.

Q: You mentioned earlier that Taxi Driver is also being released in select theaters in 4K. Do you think the 4K presentation will change the Taxi Driver experience for the audience in any way?

A: Digital presentations of any film are always different in experience from a film print. The image is steady, there is no variation in color from projector to projector, no scratches or changeover cues in the upper corner of the frame, no jumping in the gate. To me, lessening the anomalies inherent in the film projection experience allows one get more involved in the drama of the story. And this is from someone who loves so see film on film! This is why we take great pains to try and have our digital versions of films truly look like film.

Q: Can you talk about other classic film restorations from Sony that you're working on? What else is coming for theatrical revival and Blu-ray release? We're thinking of titles like Lawrence of Arabia, On the Waterfront and From Here to Eternity. We'd heard that the Lawrence restoration has already been completed...

A: Actually, Lawrence is not completed, yet, though we have begun work on it. It is a complicated project and will certainly take a year to complete. The 8K scans of the negative are done, so we are at least headed down that road. The Caine Mutiny is in the works, as is Guns of Navarone. We recently released a major restoration of The Bridge on the River Kwai, both theatrically and on Blu-ray, and it has been very well received. The other classic titles will find their way out to Blu-ray and I think it is just a matter of finding the right time to schedule those.

---

Special thanks to Grover Crisp for his time, and everyone at Sony Pictures Entertainment who was involved in the Taxi Driver restoration effort. Don't forget, the film will be released for the first time on Blu-ray Disc on April 4th (you can see the cover art below). Cheers!

Bill Hunt, Editor


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