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In my opinion, this is one of the greatest movies ever made in America and
it deserved every single award it won and it's place on the AFI Top 100
(though it's shamefully too low on the IMDB Top 250 list, at only #183 as
this writing). If you enjoy acting of the highest calibre (Voight and
Hoffman are a superb match), well-drawn characterizations and inventive
direction, editing and cinematography, you'll love this just as much as I
did. Schlesinger paints a vivid, always credible picture of the late 60s
York City scene and it's many victims struggling to overcome personal
and survive amidst the amorality, poverty and hopelessness of 42nd Street,
New York City.
The filmmaking techniques employed here brilliantly capture the feel of the underground New York film movement (and of the city) and are nothing less than dazzling. I've seen many ideas (including the rapid-fire editing, the handling of the voice-over flashbacks, the drug/trip sequences and the cartoonish face slipped in during a murder scene to convey angst and terror) stolen by other filmmakers.
The relationship between Joe and Ratso is handled in such a way as to be viewed as an unusually strong friendship OR having it's homosexual underpinnings. I think the director handled this in a subtle way not to cop out to the censorship of the times, but rather to concentrate his energies on the importance of a strong human connection in life, whether it be sexual or not.
MIDNIGHT COWBOY is a brave, moving film of magnitude, influence and importance that has lost absolutely none of it's impact over the years, so if you haven't seen it, you're really missing out on a true American classic. I recommend this film to everyone.
Score: 10 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Young, handsome, muscular Joe Buck (Jon Voight) moves from Texas to New York
thinking he'll make a living by being a stud. He gets there and finds out
quickly that it isn't going to be easy--he goes through one degrading
experience after another. At the end of his rope he hooks up with crippled,
sleazy Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman). Together they try to survive and get
out of the city and move to Florida. But will they make
Very dark, disturbing yet fascinating movie. Director John Schelsinger paints a very grimy portrait of NYC and its inhabitants. In that way it's dated--the city may have been this bad in 1969 but it's cleaned up considerably by now. He also uses every camera trick in the book--color turning to black & white; trippy dream sequences; flash forwards; flash backs (especially involving a rape); shock cuts; weird sound effects...you name it. It keeps you disoriented and off center--but I couldn't stop watching.
There isn't much of a story--it basically centers on the friendship between Rizzo and Buck. There is an implication that they may have been lovers (the final shot sort of shows that). It's just a portrait of two damaged characters trying to survive in a cold, cruel, urban jungle.
This was originally rated X in 1969--the only reason being that the MPAA didn't think that parents would want their children to see this. Nevertheless, it was a big hit with high schoolers (back then X meant no one under 17). It also has been the only X rated film ever to win an Academy Award as Best Picture. Hoffman and Voight were up for acting awards as was (mysteriously) Sylvia Miles who was in the picture for a total of (maybe) 5 minutes! It was eventually lowered to an R (with no cuts) when it was reissued in 1980.
Also the excellent song "Everybody's Talkin'" was introduced in this film--and became a big hit.
A great film---but very dark. I'm giving it a 10. DON'T see it on commercial TV--it's cut to ribbons and incomprehensible.
Virile, but naive, big Joe Buck leaves his home in Big Spring, Texas,
and hustles off to the Big Apple in search of women and big bucks. In
NYC, JB meets up with frustration, and with "Ratso" Rizzo, a scruffy
but cordial con artist. Somehow, this mismatched pair manage to survive
each other which in turn helps both of them cope with a gritty,
sometimes brutal, urban America, en route to a poignant ending.
Both funny and depressing, our "Midnight Cowboy" rides head-on into the vortex of cyclonic cultural change, and thus confirms to 1969 viewers that they, themselves, have been swept away from the 1950's age of innocence, and dropped, Dorothy and Toto like, into the 1960's Age of Aquarius.
The film's direction is masterful; the casting is perfect; the acting is top notch; the script is crisp and cogent; the cinematography is engaging; and the music enhances all of the above. Deservedly, it won the best picture Oscar of 1969, and I would vote it as one of the best films of that cyclonic decade.
Watching Midnight Cowboy is like taking a masterclass in acting/
directing/ cinematography/ editing/ writing. I was too young to watch
it when it was originally released, and only saw it for the first time
a couple of years ago, but it has absolutely stood the test of time,
and I have watched it several times since.
Everything about this film is brilliant, from the poignant performances from Voight and Hoffman (even though I know this movie well, I still find myself welling up every time Voight flashes one of his innocently pained looks, or Hoffman coughs in his sickly and ominous way) to the stunning cinematography and superbly edited dream sequences.
It's a shame that more of our contemporary filmmakers aren't prepared to take a risk on making movies that are as visually and aurally interesting as this one. Midnight cowboy should be required viewing at all film schools.
The only reason I knew of Midnight Cowboy was because it was in the AFI
Critic's Top 100. For a top 100 it is not a very well known movie;
indeed, I had to look hard to find a copy, I got the DVD version for
about half-price. Surprisingly it was only rated M15+ (the uncut
I doubt many will take notice of this review (more like comment) so I'll make it brief.
This is perhaps one of the strangest movies I've seen, partly because of the use of montages, artistic filming (very art-house) and the unusual theme. There are many things in the film I still don't understand (I've seen it twice), and it makes for an emotionally confusing film.
The filming and acting were very good, and it is the larger than life characters which make this film memorable. The main character is Joe Buck, a 'cowboy' from Texas who moves to New York to become a male prostitute. He meets the crippled conman Enrico 'Ratso' Rizzo and, of course they become friends going through the usual escapades. What makes the film interesting is the two characters are so different.
I felt the film didn't really develop the relationship between Buck and Enrico Rizzo for the audience to have any real emotional connection, although the ending is certainly quite sad and tragic. You probably already know what happens by reading the reviews, but its pretty obvious from the start.
I personally think the film beautifully and poignantly explores its main themes. The deprivation of humanity (shown by the darkness of the city streets, the breaking-down tenements). Most of the characters in the film exist beyond the law (a conman, giggolo.etc) yet you can't help liking them. Joe Buck is endearing because he is so naive and optimistic, while we begin to feel pity for Ratso later in the film.
I think the film was rated so high because it was certainly very ground-breaking for its period. At the time (And even now) it was definitely not a typical movie (quite art-house). At a time when the cinema was dominated by tired westerns, musicals and dramas a film with such an unusual theme as Midnight Cowboy pops up.
On a personal level, I must say I quite liked the film. The imagery conveyed a dream-like quality. I particularly liked the scene at the party, the music, images etc stay in your mind for a long time after watching. However, as a movie for entertainment's sake it was a bit lacking (not really my style of movie) in thrills. This is a film to be savoured and appreciated, rather than a cheap thrills action flick.
Although I would hardly consider myself qualified to analyse this film, the characters and their motives were quite interesting. From what I understand from the flashbacks, Joe Buck was sexually abused as a child by his grandmother, although it still doesn't seem to be relevant to the story. He is a happy-go-lucky young stud, who suppresses his darker memories. The religious connotations in the film are also puzzling. Some have suggested a homosexual connection between Buck and Ratso, although I fail to see where they have got the idea from. The theme of homo-sexuality in general is more than touched upon in their conversation, and later in Joe Buck's encounter with a lonely old man, but it has little to do with the main story.
Certainly from a technical point of view one of the finest films of the decade (it has more of a 70s feel to it than a 60s feel) and revolutionary for its time touching on subjects few other films dared to do. While it has a simple, sentimental story to it (disguised by a hard edge) the beauty of the film is in the strange, often psychedelic sequences.
I sat down to watch "Midnight Cowboy" thinking it would be another
overrated '60s/'70s movie. Some of my favorite films come from the
'70s, in the same vein as "Midnight Cowboy" ("Taxi Driver," "Mean
Streets," "Panic in Needle Park," etc.) but there are many, many
overrated ones as well that have gained strong reputations amongst
critics for being groundbreaking - unfortunately a vast majority of
them don't hold up as well today. I sort of feel this way about "Easy
Rider." (Although it, too, is one of my favorites.)
So, I didn't expect much from "Midnight Cowboy" but got a lot back. It's a touching story, well-made and well-told with some of the best performances of all time. Dustin Hoffman, as Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo, gives one of his best - it's a bit funny at times (he sounds like a cartoon character when he speaks - maybe because of the Lenny/"Simpsons" connection), but Hoffman is entirely convincing. Half of the film's budget went towards his paycheck as he was just becoming a major star in Hollywood. Opposite him is the second-billed Jon Voight as Joe Buck, the "cowboy" who travels North to the Big Apple in the hopes of becoming a male prostitute. Soon his naive ways land him in trouble and he pairs up with a crippled scam artist named "Ratso" - who offers to become Joe's "manager" for a certain percentage of profits.
The movie is quite long at two hours but never really seems very long. Some films can tend to drag, especially some of the films that were made in the '70s because (as it's been said in "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls") the directors were the stars of the movies in the 1970s and occasionally they got a bit too infatuated with their material, going on too long examining characters/scenes/etc. that aren't important. Just about the only scene I felt was a bit too long and unnecessary was the drug party - it makes the film seem extremely outdated (similar to the drug odysseys in "Easy Rider") and really harms its flow because it's not needed.
Other than that, "Midnight Cowboy" is an almost flawless motion picture. I was pleasantly surprised. It does have its flaws (flashbacks are a bit tacky and never used as well as they could have been, for instance) and some of the scenes are a bit uneasy (such as the gay movie theater sequence) but if you can handle its content "Midnight Cowboy" is a truly great motion picture, an uncompromising examination of life on the streets in the late '60s/early '70s. It's a depressing movie, yes, and by today's standards might seem a bit outdated and heavy on the liberal perspective of "life is horrible, etc."...but I still love it and particularly the extremely touching ending will stay with me for a long, long time.
Highly recommended. One of the best films of the '70s. (It was technically released in late 1969 but I'd still categorize it as a 1970s film. It also won the Best Picture Oscar, being the first - and only - X-rated motion picture to do so. It was later re-rated R on appeal.)
It's not quite the timeless masterpiece you would hope it would be
based on the acclaim it garnered, but 1969's "Midnight Cowboy" is still
a powerhouse showcase for two young actors just bursting into view at
the time. Directed by John Schlesinger and written by Waldo Salt, the
movie seems to be a product of its time, the late 1960's when American
films were especially expressionistic, but it still casts a spell
because the story comes down to themes of loneliness and bonding that
resonate no matter what period. The film's cinematic influence can
still be felt in the unspoken emotionalism found in Ang Lee's
The meandering plot follows Joe Buck, a naive, young Texan who decides to move to Manhattan to become a stud-for-hire for rich women. Full of energy but lacking any savvy, he fails miserably but is unwilling to concede defeat despite his dwindling finances. He meets a cynical, sickly petty thief named "Ratso" Rizzo, who first sees Joe as an easy pawn. The two become dependent on one another, and Rizzo begins to manage Joe. Things come to a head at a psychedelic, drug-infested party where Joe finally lands a paying client. Meanwhile, Rizzo becomes sicker, and the two set off for Florida to seek a better life. This is not a story that will appeal to everyone, in fact, some may still find it repellent that a hustler and a thief are turned into sympathetic figures, yet their predicaments feel achingly authentic.
In his first major role, Jon Voight is ideally cast as he brings out Joe's paper-thin bravado and deepening sexual insecurities. As Rizzo, Dustin Hoffman successfully upends his clean, post-college image from "The Graduate" and immerses himself in the personal degradation and glimmering hope that act as an oddly compatible counterpoint to Joe. The honesty of their portrayals is complemented by Schlesinger's film treatment which vividly captures the squalor of the Times Square district at the time. The director also effectively inserts montages of flashbacks and fantasy sequences to fill in the character's fragile psyches. Credit also needs to go to Salt for not letting the pervasive cynicism overwhelm the pathos of the story. The other performances are merely incidental to the journeys of the main characters, including Brenda Vaccaro as the woman Joe meets at the party, Sylvia Miles as a blowsy matron, John McGiver as a religious zealot and Barnard Hughes as a lonely out-of-towner.
The two-disc 2006 DVD package contains a pristine print transfer of the 1994 restoration and informative commentary from producer Jerome Hellman since unfortunately neither Schlesinger nor Salt are still living. There are three terrific featurettes on the second disc - a look-back documentary, "After Midnight: Reflections on a Classic 35 Years Later", which features comments from Hellman, Hoffman, Voight and others, as well as clips and related archive footage such as Voight's screen test; "Controversy and Acclaim", which examines the genesis of the movie's initial 'X' rating and public response to the film; and a tribute to the director, "Celebrating Schlesinger".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Joe Buck (Jon Voight) decides he's going to leave his small life in
Texas and make it big in the Big City. The women are there for the
asking and the men are mainly "tutti-fruttis." Wide-eyed, he comes to
New York City, not prepared for the series of humiliating misadventures
he experiences, one worse than the other. In the middle of that chaos,
he meets and befriends Rico "Ratso" Rizzo (Dustin Hoffmann), a
homeless-looking man who lives in an apparently condemned building.
There isn't much of a story as MIDNIGHT COWBOY is a series of vignettes destined to bring forth not only Joe Buck's plights in the City, but also inter-cut to his past and show us in shock cuts and semi-psychedelic dream sequences snippets of his past: his failed relationship with his girlfriend Annie (Jennifer Salt) who was gang-raped, his abandonment by his mother, and his apparent abuse by his grandmother, who also had a habit of hustling men for money. An air of pessimism dominates the film almost from the wistful beginning as Nilsson plays throughout the opening credits his deceptively flowery "Everybody's Talking'"; we feel that even while we want Joe to eventually make his mark in the City, the odds are high he won't and will end up working for pennies in a dead-end job -- shown in a masterful shot from his outside point of view later in the film as he watches a man work as a dishwasher in a soup kitchen through a window and sees himself. We know from the look in his eyes he does not want to end like this.
A dark story of dashed hopes, John Schlesinger creates haunting images of lost souls at the end of the 60s, and at the center, the prevailing friendship between two men as they struggle to make some sort of meaning to their lives amidst the elusive comfort of a dignified life. There is the implied notion that they may have been lovers -- Ratso's reaching out to hug Joe in the party scene and their the final embrace at the end certainly points at this -- but this is essentially a buddy film, one that manages to survive, literally, to the death, and bring some form of hope to Joe who at the end in Florida seems much changed, older, wiser.
'Midnight Cowboy' was rated X with the original release back in 1969. There
are some scenes where you can understand that, just a little. The movie
about Joe Buck (Jon Voight) coming from Texas to New York City to become a
hustler is sometimes a little disturbing. Dressed up as a cowboy he tries to
live as a hustler, making money by the act of love. It does not work out as
he planned. After a guy named Rico 'Ratso' Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) first
pulled a trick on him and stole some money they become friends. They live in
an empty and very filthy apartment. Then Ratso gets sick and Joe has to try
to make some money.
The movie was probably rated X for the main subject but on the way we see some strange things. The editing in this movie is great. We see dream sequences from Joe and Ratso interrupted by the real world in a nice and sometimes funny way. Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight and the supporting actors give great performances. Especially Hoffman delivers some fine famous lines. The score is done by John Barry and sounds great. All this makes this a great movie that won the Best Picture Oscar for a good reason.
Fascinating downer about a would-be male hustler in New York City forced to live in a condemned building with a crippled con-man. Extremely bleak examination of modern-day moral and social decline, extremely well-directed by John Schlesinger (who never topped his work here) and superbly acted by Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman. Packs quite a punch overall, yet the "fantasy" scenes--some of which are played for a chuckle--are mildly intrusive, as is the "mod" drug party. The relationship that develops between the two men is sentimental, yet the filmmakers are careful not to get mushy, and this gives the picture an edge it might not have had with a lesser director than Schlesinger. Originally X-rated in 1969, and the winner of the Best Picture Oscar; screenwriter Waldo Salt (who adapted James Leo Herilhy's book) and Schlesinger also won statues. ***1/2 from ****
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