Photography exhibit goes inside '70s cinema classics
Lights! Camera! Shoot!
03/30/2011 10:00 PM
The Godfather and Taxi Driver are two of the most celebrated works in cinema history. Products of a great filmmaking wave that surged in the 1970s, the films find two legendary directors — Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese — at the top of their game and working with equally celebrated casts — Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel and more.
To be a fly on the wall during the production of these films — to witness the meeting of minds that led to the creation of masterpieces — is a cinephile’s dream. Catherine Edelman Gallery in River North provides the next best thing with Steve Schapiro: Taxi Driver/The Godfather, an exhibition of black and white and color photos by the set photographer on both films, displayed in his first solo show in Chicago. Schapiro was granted unprecedented access by the studios to shoot the productions, and his photos capture amazing moments.
When Schapiro was hired by Paramount in 1971 to be the special photographer for Coppola’s mafia epic, The Godfather, he was already an established photojournalist for Life, Look, Time, Newsweek and more, having covered Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign, the civil rights march on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
Schapiro’s journalistic past isn’t immediately evident in the six Godfather prints on display at Edelman, which focus on actors in front of the camera rather than behind-the-scenes action, but the pics are stunning nevertheless — iconic shots of Brando as the Corleone family head holding his cat, receiving a whispered request for a hit, conversing with his son, played by Al Pacino, and more.
Four years after The Godfather’s release, Schapiro was hired to fill the same role on the set of Taxi Driver, Scorsese’s ferocious look at the unraveling of a mentally unhinged New York City cabbie. Star Robert De Niro personally requested Schapiro for the job, in fact.
Prints from the Taxi Driver production dominate the exhibit — twenty-six total. Again, the images are instantly recognizable — De Niro as the shirtless, buffed Travis Bickle striking poses with gun in front of a mirror or voyeuristically peering out from behind the wheel of his yellow cab; Jodie Foster as the underage prostitute, Iris, radiating innocence and sexuality while standing cross-legged on a stoop.
Unlike the Godfather prints, the Taxi Driver features include behind-the-scenes shots of Scorsese conversing with De Niro or sitting on a couch peering at a gun in his hand (a shot of De Niro holding a similar pose hangs nearby). They’re fascinating glimpses into the collaborative process.
Those wishing to purchase these cinema freeze-frames: be prepared to shell out some major cash. The silver gelatin and archival prints range in price from $13,000 to $1,600. Catherine Edelman Gallery is free and open to the public, though. The small, but airy space is perfect for browsing without worrying about price tags.