He’s Got Some Bad Ideas in His Head


The first image the viewer is presented with in Taxi Driver, aside from theimage of a taxicab slowly slithering through the smoke from a sewer, is eyes. The eyes are those of the main character Travis Bickle—the man who would not take it anymore, the man who’s got some bad ideas in his head, God’s lonely man. In this shot, Travis’ eyes never stop drifting, as he never stops observing the hellish dumpster or open sewer, to quote the character himself, he has found himself trapped in and unable to climb out of. Travis’ eyes are lit with a distinct red tint, which is a direct color representation this hellish underworld, and is only one of many expressionistic techniques used in the film in order to depict a world as seen from the eyes of this isolated and disturbed taxi driver. These expressionistic techniques not only represent a world from a firsthand point-of-view, but also represent the very mental fabric of Travis. He, just like New York City, is a constant and ever worsening state of decay. In this sense, the film’s locale is manipulated to such a grand extent that it’s almost as if it becomes yet another character. New York City becomes Travis’ best friend, worst enemy, and only companion, whether he likes it or not.

Martin Scorsese’s expressionistic techniques splashed among a realistic, gritty background make it evident that Taxi Driver is a film that is quite psychological is nature. Other less overtly visually subjective techniques that make this evident are Travis’ voice-over monologues, which give an even more direct point-of-view along with the indication that what the audience is seeing is what the main character is seeing; the lengthy, more ordinary sequences of Travis driving his cab, which show him over and over again becoming engulfed in his surroundings and become one what this urban hell; the music, that is at times contradictorily soothing and chilling, representing his constant mental rollercoaster and giving the film a dream or trance-like quality. With these filmmaking choices, the audience is given an even more direct look into his consciousness. As the film progresses, the narration becomes more driven by anger and the music more intense as the anticipation of drastic action grows. The color red is also in effect during a pivotal scene about an hour into the film, where Travis has a discussion outside of a cafeteria with a fellow taxi driver, Wizard, but are really unable to formulate any sort of real discussion. The scene represents Travis’ inability to fully connect with others, as well his growing unrest, which is emphasized when he tells Wizard, “I’ve got some bad ideas in my head.” The scene has a mood of intense desperation, and is lit with that familiar red tint, depicting Travis as a ticking time bomb and overshadowing a violent downfall.

Although some may think of Taxi Driver as a realist film, it is not. The film is an impressive act of expressionism, which is defined as “an artistic style in which the artist seeks to depict not objective reality but rather the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse within a person.” For its time, its manipulation of locale (1970s New York City) as well as editing and lighting in order to achieve such an effect are stunning. The city, consumed with decay at the time, served perfectly as a metaphor for a lonely man consumed with his own psychological decay and who, like the city, is unable to resist or fight said decay and has no choice but to watch himself collapse under the pressure of attempting to find a way out of the mess.

Super Fly: The Sights of 1970s New York

Gordon Parks, Jr.’s Super Fly is an experiment in realism rather than expressionism in the way that it does not purposely alter or distort any of Block’s Visual Components—Space, Line, Shape, Tone, Color, Movement, Rhythm—and only aims to recreate New York as realistically as possible on-screen, using previously released films like The French Connection or Shaft as the blueprint for success. While watching Parks, Jr.’s film, one might tell themselves that the film has 70s written all over it, as if there has never been another film that so effectively provides a snapshot of an entire decade, an entire place, an entire attitude. If you’re looking for one of the definitive films of the 1970s, look no further than Super Fly.

The visual components and narrative content go hand in hand, never forced to combat each other for what will receive more attention from the audience. As should be with any film, the visual components are structured around the content at hand, and since the audience is presented a relatively simple, non-abstract story, they will get simple, non-abstract visuals. The film employs color beautifully, as the film stock used tends to make the images appear washed out, adding to the work’s role as a timepiece for the 1970s as well as adding to the work’s toughness, its take-no-prisoners attitude.

The boldest and most successful part of the film is without a doubt the now infamous still image montage to Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman.” The idea to construct a montage made up of only still images was a daring feat and could not have been more successful. The montage ends up being more exciting than almost any other montage composed in all the years of cinema, for the images move with such fluidity that it’s hard to pay attention to the fact that they are only still images. Overall, the strength of the montage is its rhythm, displaying an astute illusion of movement that wouldn’t have been able to be accomplished if they constructed normal cinematic images rather than taking this unique approach.

This is one photo belonging to the work of Massimiliano Tommaso Rezza.

I was immediately drawn to this photo along with his others both because I have a personal fondness for black-and-white imagery and the fact that his photos are extremely striking–so striking that it is almost indescribable as to why they are so striking in the first place. Rather than just photos, Rezza’s photographs seem more like poetic slices of simple daily life in all forms, depicting despair, romance, emptiness, desolation, self-destruction.

The rest of Rezza’s work can be seen upon clicking on the above photograph.

What does visual design mean?

Visual design, regardless of whether or not one can actually provide a clear definition of the term, is crucial to cinema. Cinema, as you obviously, is a purely visual art form. When composing images for a film, the filmmaker must have the vision and tenacity of any great painter, composer, or writer. Composing images takes a great knack for what you would call visual design since that is essentially what you are doing when composing an image for a film–designing visuals.

Skip to toolbar