My Head Hurts

I’ve been staring at this for over a week now and I still have absolutely no idea what it says…

happy til not happy

This is one of the funniest things in the history of funny things


Have a listen to this. Brilliant idea, perfect performances and timing. My favourite bit: “One of the towers…the other tower…the tower I’m in is collapsing…I’m collapsing Chris, under the sheer…I’ve managed…I’m out! I’m out!” 😆😆😆

Here is ANOTHER man who would not take it anymore…

For a worrying period in my late teens my biggest role model was Travis Bickle. The ultimate socially awkward street crusader, he was an unhinged avenging angel who prayed that “some day a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets”. Typical weather forecaster – he got that wrong – but when the rain didn’t come, he decided to get out into the neon-bathed, sleaze-infested alleyways behind Times Square and clean them up himself with a jet-hose. Well, a Smith & Wesson 36, Colt Detective Special and Walter PPK.

Sitting in my crappy rented flat overlooking a drab suburban high street waiting for a starter pistol to go off and life to properly begin, I played my Taxi Driver VHS over and over until the tape wore out. I was in love with the saturated colours and the symbolism, the Bernard Hermann soundtrack that dialled up the melodrama to 11 and suggested everyday life could be intense and meaningful. I didn’t go as far as getting a mohawk haircut and driving a cab around the mean streets of Essex but if I’d have had some electric clippers and a driving licence at the time, who knows what might have happened?

I mention all this not just to reminisce fondly about my days as a teenage nutcase hyped up on existentialist literature and cheap lager but because I recently watched a brilliant film called First Reformed which might just as well have been titled Taxi Driver 2. It’s not about a veteran of the Iraq War who returns home and struggles to settle into life as an Uber driver. But, written and directed by Paul Schrader, the legendary writer of Taxi Driver, it follows the same story and trajectory as the original: alienated man with tragic past keeps poignant yet alarming diary documenting his increasingly fragile state of mind as he hurtles towards physical and philosophical implosion.

This time, instead of Robert De Niro as a NYC cabbie, the (anti)hero is Ethan Hawkes as a priest at a small church in upstate New York. And rather than urban sleaze and child prostitution, his bete noire is the environmental rape of the planet by Big Business. But just like Travis Bickle, Father Toller is God’s lonely man, a tightly wound rubber band about to snap at any moment, a troubled, volatile rebel with a righteous cause (and a killer hangover). I genuinely wouldn’t have been surprised if Father Toller had knocked back a couple of Alka Seltzer and jotted down in his notebook the famous words, “Listen you f*ckheads, you screwheads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the c*nts, the dogs, the filth, the shit. Here is a man who stood up…”

The other key things I’ve always loved about Taxi Driver are its surreal, almost transcendental tone and brilliantly ambiguous ending. Both of these elements are present and correct in First Reformed. I don’t want to spoil it so I won’t go into details but there’s a scene two thirds of the way through where the boundaries between reality and fantasy are torn down and scrunched into a kind of magic realism that blew my mind and broke my heart at the same time. And just like Taxi Driver’s infamous did-that-really-happen?! ‘happy’ ending, the final scene of First Reformed is shot with ‘interpret it your own way’ metaphysical mentalism.

On top of all that, First Reformed is really something to look at. The cinematography is somehow both beautiful and bleak and the burnt out grade evokes an unsettling yet strangely moving atmosphere throughout, much like my favourite Jean-Luc Godard film, Eloge de l’Amour.

Battling his tragic past, ever-present demons, rapidly-fading faith in God and the unstoppable march of the corporate machine, at one point Father Toller writes/says, “I know that nothing can change and I know there is no hope.” It’s harsh and fatalistic but it’s not the core theme of the film. As with Taxi Driver, this is visceral stuff and the vibe mood-swings up and down, but I took the ultimate message to be this: life can be harsh but there is positivity and redemption to be found in a noble mission and the healing power of genuine human connection.

Powerful stuff, highly recommended and definitely deserves multiple viewings. If I had it on VHS, I’d wear the tape out.