King of Sports: Three Minutes with Harvey Keitel

Taxi Driver is one of those movies that always needs to be seen with an audience. Whether in a movie theater or in a classroom, the only true way for the film to be experienced, as far as I’m concerned, is surrounded by lots of other people who feel as uncomfortable as you do. When Harvey Keitel shows up, which is fairly late in the film, his appearance (not just the acting but also his outfit and his physique) is such a sudden and exciting moment, a three-minute scene with exactly the right combination of sleaze and goofiness. I still remember how fantastic it was to see the film for the first time, a hot Friday night at the Museum of the Moving Image a few summers ago, asking myself “Who played the pimp, Sport? I’ve got to see more movies with him!” as the end credits rolled. The scene retains its impact now, even after multiple viewings. Every Brighton Beach-inflected line of dialogue – “I once had a horse…” “It’s entrapment already!” “You a funny guy… but looks aren’t everything” – is gold coming from Keitel. His look is note-perfect too. And is that his real hair? What a pro.

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