It's often more than a little difficult to observe and completely understand the cinematography of films that were released decades before the current generation. While their meanings and imagery are in fact no more hidden or obscure than those of today's films, it is still a generational transition in which the viewer is at times forced to watch and watch again a certain film to understand the subtext that is being introduced and the true themes that are being utilized to give the film its overall meaning. In other words the generational gap between the directors of then as compared to now is great enough that translation and comprehension is sometimes difficult to bridge.
Many in this current generation would have difficulty finding the qualities that make "Taxi Driver" such a noteworthy and iconic film. Many who are so used to the quick bang and flash of the current films, or the ultimately hidden in plain sight plot twists, would invariably miss the overall point behind Travis Bickle and his otherwise very realistic plight. It is a different time now than it was then, and Scorsese, master of film that he is, was a very revolutionary director in that he filmed what others would see as a sad, depressing life that seemingly had no real meaning, but in fact was the face of so many within the USA at that time.
Travis Bickle was the disillusioned, the disenfranchised, and the downtrodden that seek to make life better, but overall fall short of their own ideals. His distractions are quite normal, as are his intentions, not to mention his methods. When it seems that no one wants to listen, that no one wants to deal with the real problem, it often behooves those who believe they have the right, simplest answers to do something, to set the world back to an even keel, and to do so in a manner that only they will understand.
The story of the antihero, which Travis Bickle represents, is one that has grown in popularity throughout the past several decades, as it represents a much more realistic view that society has begun to embrace. The upright, virtuous hero that still exists is trusted less and less as their methods are not those that are the most popular, and rarely get lasting results, while the antihero is the one who will cross the line and do what must be done in order to mete out justice of a different sort, the type that stereotypical heroes tend to shy away from.
Travis Bickle's story is one that is difficult at first to comprehend, but once it is seen through the eyes of a man who wants simplicity and cannot find it, the rest of the story seems to fall into place. Madness within in any tale presents a notable challenge, but within each tale such as "Taxi Driver" there is a common thread that must be followed, whether it is realized or not. All tales follow a formula that sets them into one category or another, and the tale of Travis Bickle is no different.
Every person is mad in some way, some are simply better at hiding or even denying such feelings exist. What sets people like Travis Bickle apart from so many others is the willingness to dive headlong into the madness, to move ahead without looking back. There are many within American society that harbor such thoughts, and many that would seek to act on such impulses but do not for fear of what might happen. In relation to Travis Bickle, those that act are the more dangerous, as their own tale has no set ending yet.