Martin Scorsese is without a doubt one of the most acclaimed directors of all time, receiving claps, cheers, and adoration at film festivals all over the world for his work on Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and Casino, among many others. The films of Martin Scorsese have gone on to inspire generations with their gritty, intriguing tales of disturbed people on the cusp of personal transformation.
Unusually, Scorsese’s movie that won the Palme d’Or also garnered criticism at the same festival. Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, and Jodie Foster’s Taxi Driver received loud jeers and boos at its Cannes debut, and numerous audience members left the screening due to the movie’s infamous reputation for gore.
Why was Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver booed at the Cannes Film Festival?
Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader created one of the best New York dramas, rife with intensity and complex characterization, as an unforgiving psychoanalysis of a man on the verge of insanity. The reason for the classic to receive such a backlash was that the audience simply couldn’t take the level of violence portrayed in the movie.
The Palme d’Or-winning film raised the fame of its director and pushed its star, Robert De Niro, into the spotlight of Hollywood cinema. It is not just one of Martin Scorsese’s greatest films, but also among the greatest films of all time.
Jodie Foster commented on the movie’s notoriety at the time in 2016 when speaking to The Hollywood Reporter. She said,
“The whole issue about the violence in the movie kind of exploded,” adding that Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel “kind of got stuck at the Hotel du Cap and didn’t come out very much”.
The response received by the movie had a great effect on Scorsese as he even decided to quit filmmaking altogether. Thankfully, the legend returned to the industry while Taxi Driver ended up making a mark on the history of great cinema.
Despite the backlash, Taxi Driver went on to win the Palme d’Or
After learning that jury chair Tennessee Williams detested the movie, Scorsese returned to the United States to complete his follow-up, in New York. Despite Taxi Driver‘s severity the jury could not dispute its brilliance and gave the movie a Palme d’Or with the stern condition that “cinema not become a source of hatred.”
It should come as no surprise that the decision proved controversial. “Half the audience was on its feet cheering,” recalls producer Michael Phillips. “The other half was booing.”
The American Film Institute ranked the movie as the 52nd greatest American film of all time, and it received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. It was chosen in 1994 to be kept in the National Film Registry.
Adding to the list of classics getting booed at the Cannes Film Festival- Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction
When Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Red lost to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1994, the film received loud booing from the audience. Being a relatively new director at the time, Tarantino avoided the traditional humiliation of being mocked at the movie’s opening. The elite of the festival, however, expressed major disapproval of Pulp Fiction since it was so contentious.
Unfazed by the negative response his movie received, Tarantino responded to his detractors by flashing his middle finger to the roaring audience as he accepted the Palme d’Or award at the festival’s closing ceremony. Despite the uproar it generated in Cannes, Pulp Fiction is now regarded as one of the best films ever made in addition to being a classic.
Taxi Driver is streaming on HBO Max while Pulp Fiction is available on Netflix.