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Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece of inner-city alienation screened for a jittery Cannes Film Festival in 1976, a year after a bomb was discovered inside the Palais des Festivals. (The failed plot was mounted by a terrorist group called The People’s Struggle Against the Perversion of Humanity.)
Perhaps that explains why Taxi Driver drew loud boos from the mercurial crowd, many of whom streamed out of the theater ashen-faced over the film’s ultraviolent climax in which the protagonist, Vietnam War vet turned cab driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro, then 32), guns down a pimp (Harvey Keitel, 37) to rescue Iris, a teen prostitute played by a 13-year-old Jodie Foster.
“The whole issue about the violence in the movie kind of exploded,” Foster recently told THR. “Marty, Bobby and Harvey kind of got stuck at the Hotel du Cap and didn’t come out very much.”
After Scorsese caught wind of a report that jury head Tennessee Williams hated the film, he flew back to the U.S. tofinish his follow-up, New York, New York. Despite the film’s brutality, the jury could not deny that Taxi Driver was a triumph and awarded it the Palme d’Or — accompanied by a hand-wringing caveat that “cinema not become a source of hatred.”
The decision was, not surprisingly, controversial.
“Half the audience was on its feet cheering,” recalls producer Michael Phillips. “The other half was booing.” Foster returns to Cannes this year with her latest directorial effort, Money Monster, which has its world premiere May 12 at the Palais.
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