Signal 7 (1984)

Signal 7 (1984)

“Driving a hack now is just like it was in ’35 – I mean, we have the same problems.”

A pair of middle-aged taxi drivers in San Francisco — Marty (Dan Leegant) and Speed (Bill Ackridge) — take fares, hang out with their buddies, and navigate existential dilemmas.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Masculinity
  • Workplace Drama

Director Rob Nilsson — whose debut feature, Northern Lights (1978), is also listed in GFTFF — dedicated this cinéma vérité indie film (“Story by Ron Nilsson, written by the cast”) to John Cassavetes, which makes sense given his clear influence on the style. Signal 7 (the title refers to a radio distress call) unfolds in a leisurely, seemingly improvised fashion which nonetheless coheres thematically; we watch as these working class men navigate their world by sharing stories:

… dreaming of more for themselves (one extended sequence shows them unsuccessfully auditioning for parts in a play):

discussing formation of a union, dealing with the murder of one of their colleagues, and interacting with their fares.

This low-budget movie received glowing notices by the New York Times upon its release, with reviewer Nina Darnton describing it as an “unusual, touching, intelligent film” about “pride, loneliness, friendship, ambition, failure, fear and hope,” with a story that “slowly draws the audience in, building with a cumulative power.” I would essentially agree: while it’s not must-see viewing, I became surprisingly caught up in this well-crafted tale about 24 hours in the lives of men who don’t usually get to shine on-screen.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine cinéma vérité directing and cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a one-time look if you happen to catch it.


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