Sunday, August 7, 2011

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

 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.


Artman2112 said...

i agree with you, it is very sad, but such a well made film on every level. love the music! i dont know if you heard this anecdote but apparently Hoffman put a rock in his shoe to make his "crippled" walking more authentic.

Shybiker said...

I avoided this film, too, for years because of its reputation as depressing. And it is sad.

It is artistic, though, and a fairly accurate slice-of-life of New York at that time. Today, Manhattan is so cleaned up and safe, people can't believe how different it was back then. I remember walking in Times Square in the Seventies and just waiting to get mugged; you knew it was coming, the only question was when. Parts of the City had palpable sleaze back then.

It's also startling to see Dustin in his youth. He's an old man now, playing old characters. I always think of him as 25 years old.

emma wallace said...

I do NOT think I'll be catching this film as I avoid sad things. But I'm glad to know some details about it!