Sunday, February 27, 2011

496. Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Running Time: 113 minutes
Directed By: John Schlesinger
Written By: Waldo Salt, from novel by James Leo Herlihy
Main Cast: Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Brenda Vaccaro, Sylvia Miles, John McGiver


Less than twenty-four hours removed, until the 83rd Annual Academy Awards commence, tonight I rewound the clock forty two years to take a look at the Best Picture of 1969 - "Midnight Cowboy". It wasn't, however, the first time I had seen "Midnight Cowboy" and actually I was able to pluck this one directly from my DVD shelf.

Joe Buck (Voight) is headed for New York 'by gawd' City, from his original home in Texas, because he's convinced that the city is crawling with women, who'd pay big money to hop in the sack with a genuine cowboy. After a long bus ride, Joe eventually reaches the city that never sleeps, but has to face a harsh reality when he realizes that the women he figured would be attacking him right off the bus, do not exist. Joe does manage to get one date, which results in a memorable scene with Sylvia Miles and ends with him paying her instead of vice versa. Later, he meets up with Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo (Hoffman), who swindles him out of $20, by telling him that he'll introduce him to a manager who handles "hustlers" like Joe. Joe doesn't meet any managers, but down the line he runs into Ratso again and maybe through a feeling of guilt or loneliness...or both, Ratso invites Joe to stay with him in a condemned apartment building. Joe doesn't have a choice, as he's ran out of cash and has no food. Joe and Ratso give the hustling business one more go and through a series of schemes get Joe all ready for the bevy of dates he's sure to get. Unfortunately for the duo, things once again don't pan out and winter eventually arrives, as Ratso takes a turn for the worse - health wise and he and Joe continue squatting in a heat-less, abandoned apartment.


I mentioned above that I plucked this one off of my DVD shelf, but I didn't run out and buy it the first time I saw it. It was more of a "find it for cheap, so I'll go ahead and pick it up" kind of thing. Everytime I see this movie I have mixed feelings but I think tonight, with this viewing, I was able to nail down some of those feelings and make a definitive opinion about "Midnight Cowboy". I'm going to throw some thoughts out there, so please don't be turned off if I get too random.

The first thing that really captures me about "Midnight Cowboy" is the atmosphere of the whole film. I wasn't born in the 1960s, but I must admit that I've always had a certain interest in the decade. I've always tended to wonder about what life was like back then, when the world was going through a social change the sex, drug and rock 'n' roll revolution was in full swing. I've only ever been able to ponder about such things, and in my opinion, this movie gives me the opportunity to do a lot less pondering and a little more fascinating about what it must have been like to live in the Big Apple in the decade of peace, love and harmony. To me this film totally captures the city and atmosphere and makes them another character in the film. This isn't a film you can just set anywhere, New York City is the must have location for Joe Buck and all of his escapades.

This film is also probably one of the most artistic films I've ever seen. To me the entire experience of watching "Midnight Cowboy" is like staring at an intriguing painting. It allows you the freedom to make certain interpretations, it provokes thought, it's beautiful and scary at the same time and I think that everyone will ultimately see some things different. For me, I saw a movie that captures the height of the sexual revolution. A movie that turned me on, but also made me feel. Instead of using colors to paint the picture the film maker's use different assets as their colors. The atmosphere, the characters, the city, the beauty, the sex and the tragedy were this films equivalent to Roy G. Biv, and they were all mixed and mashed together to form something that was brilliant. Through all of the erotic images and uneasy situations, you had a beautiful friendship blossoming in the ugliest of circumstances, between Joe and Ratso. I felt sorry for Ratso. Here you have a man who knows nothing but cheating and stealing, but sees an opportunity to capture a friend. I love the scene where Joe threatens to leave Ratso's apartment, but Ratso eases up on him and almost begs him to stay. It's such a beautiful moment, again, set in the ugliest of surroundings in the most downtrodden of circumstances. In the end, Joe chooses his friendship with Ratso instead of pursuing his hustling career, at a time when it actually seems to be taking off. It was almost as if Joe was saying "Look buddy. I'm sorry for all those times I called you "Ratso" and made fun of you and threatened you. But now, I'm giving up all of my dreams, my desires, my life to make sure you get well, so that you can strive. So that we can strive."

"Midnight Cowboy" is a fantastic film. It is maybe the closest I've ever come to witnessing moving art and I highly recommend it.

RATING: 10/10 Don't give up on this one after your first viewing. Check it out again and I hope you'll be surprised at what you may uncover.


February 26, 2011 10:18pm

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