Midnight Cowboy remains one of those films I have meant to watch for ages. It earned an "X" rating when first released, and received much acclaim. Putting its reputation aside, I found it sad, but very "New York," and "1960s."
When Texas cowboy and self-proclaimed "hustler" Joe Buck (Jon Voight) moves to New York City, he befriends crippled conman, Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman). They make classic pair. Buck remains optimistic and naive, trailing alongside the more streetwise Rizzo. While Rizzo sports cheap, flashy suits, Buck continues to don his cowboy ensemble. Yet, despite their differences, Buck learns from Rizzo. For instance, he imitates Rizzo as he slams on passing car hoods and shouts, "I'm walking here!" Something in him wants escape his background. Flashbacks reveal Buck comes from a darker past than he conveys, but nothing certain surfaces. Instead, he continues to develop. With Rizzo as liason, he sleeps with wealthy women for money, but never loses his charm.
I mentioned I find this film represents the 1960s and New York. Having not lived through the era, I can only assert the film captures how I see 1960s New York in my imagination. The gray, gritty streets, and broken-down buildings filled with drugs and sexual decadence spells the place and time. An extended party scene seems psychedelic, yet realistic to me, and selected documentary style-shooting (cameraman focusing on a couple and asking, "Why are you here?") extends its validity.
When Midnight Cowboy ended, I felt sad, and full of questions. The film ends tragically, and I felt I still had much to learn about these characters. However, I am grateful to have followed them through this footage.