Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Castiglione Discusses Taxi

A while ago, I acquired the Taxi DVD on eBay. I had not considered the possible issues stemming from DVD region codes and when I got Taxi, I found I couldn't play it on my DVD player as it was a region 2 DVD. It was possible to play it on my laptop but only if I changed the region code for its DVD player, something which I could only do a limited number of times which made me a bit hesitant to do so. The end result was that my copy of Taxi languished in my DVD collection, mocking my naivete with its very presence.

The recent demise of my DELL XPS M1530 turned out to be a blessing in disguise as one of the advantages of its replacement, my ASUS U30Jc-b1, is that it is capable of playing DVD's regardless of their region code so I was recently able to finally view my copy of Taxi.

I first saw Taxi in Grenoble, France the summer after it was released. Back then, my French wasn't very good (not that it's very good now) but I had no trouble following the story. That, in itself, tells you what kind of movie it is. Taxi was written by Luc Besson, the man who's best known in the US for La Femme Nikita, The Professional and The Fifth Element, films which packed a lot of action into their obligatory ninety minutes or so of running time, and Taxi is no exception to this pattern.

Taxi stars Samy Naceri and Frederic Diefenthal. The stunning Marion Cotillard is also present in what is considered to be her breakthrough role. For those of you who haven't seen the original or its American remake, the story involves Emilien (Frederic Diefenthal), a police detective who has, amazingly, never learned how to drive and Daniel (Samy Naceri), a former pizza delivery boy now working as a taxi driver chauffeuring terrified passengers around Marseille in his souped up Peugeot. Emilien is on the trail of a gang of German bank robbers who seem to have a penchant for using cherry red Mercedes as their getaway cars while shamelessly chewing the scenery. After Daniel gets himself into hot water by flagrantly flouting the local traffic laws with Emilien as his fare, he is blackmailed by the enterprising detective into helping him track down the Germans so he can gain the respect of his peers, especially that of the lovely Petra (Emma Sjoberg) whose very proximity has the tendency to turn Emilien into a babbling idiot. Daniel has girl problems of his own, spending most of his time in the movie (when he's not helping Emilien with his case), trying to consummate his relationship with his girlfriend Lilly (Marion Cotillard) but always managing to get interrupted in the process.

As you may have surmised from my little summary of Taxi, a gritty police procedural it is not. If anything, it is a farcical cartoon brought to life on the big screen, whose real star, it can be argued, is the eponymous taxi itself, which figures prominently in the film's many driving sequences. The first gun battle in the film involves perhaps several thousand rounds being fired with not one person wounded let alone killed. The German villains are only missing the villainous black mustache, monocle and spiked helmet which would have made them at home in a WWI propaganda film. Despite all this, I enjoyed watching Taxi now just as much I enjoyed watching it back in Grenoble in the summer of '98. Perhaps it's the undeniable chemistry between the actors which makes the film so much fun to watch. Maybe I can't help but enjoy movies centered around cars being driven recklessly, a relic, perhaps, of a youth spent watching films like Mad Max and The Road Warrior. Or it may be that a film that has no pretensions of being anything more than what it is is something we should all indulge in from time to time, lest we take everything (including ourselves) too seriously.

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