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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw Midnight Cowboy when it was originally released in 1969. I was 19 at the time. From the time I saw it to the present day, it has been my all time favorite movie. I've often wondered why. As an amateur film critic, I readily acknowledge that The Godfather I and II (let's forget about III) are the greatest movies I have ever seen ... and yet, Cowboy is my favorite. Why? Surely the spectacular acting by Voight and Hoffman is part of it but Brando and Pacino are equally as great (as are De Niro and Duvall) in GF I and II. The plot? What plot? Midnight Cowboy is a character study but let's review the plot anyway: wannabe cowboy moves from Texas to New York City to hustle women; fails; gravitates to the underbelly of NYC; befriends crippled homeless guy; they ultimately leave New York for Miami via bus and the homeless guy (who apparently has pneumonia) dies in transit. Compare this to the Godfather story lines and it's obviously no contest. So what is it? Why do I love this movie so much? I've come to the conclusion that it's all about its poignant presentation of the human condition and how we're drawn into it. You watch Midnight Cowboy and you feel like you're right there with Joe and Ratso, like you're living what they're living. When I watch the Godfather movies, I know I'm watching a movie ... a great movie, but a movie nonetheless. When Ratso dies on the bus, it rips Joe's heart out but it also rips the heart out of everyone watching the movie. His grief becomes our grief. It's this bonding with the characters that sets Midnight Cowboy apart from other movies ... and makes it my favorite of all time.
Dreaming about a life as cowboy exhibition, the young and naive Texan
"Joe Buck" (Jon Voight), was moving toward the New York City to become
a "gigolo", but soon discover that world is not as he imagined. Without
money or friends, known to "Rich" (Dustin Hoffman), "Ratso", a cripple
swindler you want cheat.
We are facing one of the great films of the 1960. The film is supported by two giants of the interpretation as John Voight and Dustin Hoffman. "Buck" out of its people to seek their fortune exploiting its physical, convinced of it. Unfortunately the disappointment will soon arrive. It board with a cripple that is the limit of life in the big city, and then we are the ordeal of survival in which this world you can put anything more around the corner of a street.
What distinguishes this film of others is in its originality, in its way to send a halo of feelings as moving the script, and in their powerful scenes. They say that the best friends are made by moments really hard, of misfortune, when someone to your side is the only thing that you can sustain for not disappear down the drain of life.
The soundtrack is excellent, like the performance of the cast of actors, and the remarkable style of the director John Schlesinger.
One of the strengths of this movie that makes you wrap soon in the plot is the song of Harry Nilson which has both merit as the indent in itself, without this song is not understood today, the film.
Another rightly more, is the fabulous interpretation of the couple. To Dustin Hoffman advised him to not be involved in this movie because other actors of renowned had rejected; today it counts as an nice anecdote. . Schlesinger leaves the "American way of life" in question, in this drama full of searching in vain, failures and dreams hiding.
This superb and sad movie expresses the disconnected soul of modern man
culminating in the 1960s. "God is dead" and the soul is left to wander
the depraved streets of NYC looking for a way to survive. But men still
have their dreams, even if those dreams are no greater than to be
successful Miami pimps or hustlers, and come in from the cold. In a
world where there is no morality and no one can be trusted, imperfect
human beings still find each other and struggle to survive. Somewhere
along this dark, lonely, unglamorous path, a thing called love happens.
Not the amorous love of heterosexuals or homosexuals but the love of
one human being for another. The Texas hustler displays something
sorely lacking in many people's lives: loyalty, and compassion, even
though he is capable of violence and great force in order to keep his
friend alive. The old expression (probably coined by the old
themselves) is very apt: "Life is the thing that happens when you are
on your way to something entirely different," or "Life is what happens
while you are thinking about doing something else entirely." Will
Dustin Hoffman's character, Ratso die on his way to Miami in the same
way that every man dies on his way to the corner drug store, the bath
room, his next big project, or to some other place entirely? Or will he
find a reprieve? We know the answer to these kinds of things innately
whether we think about them or not, and that is why the culminating and
moving scenes of this film still take your breath away. In a "soul-less
universe" the world still goes its merry way, whether we are sick or
well, rich or poor... but somehow we still have soul.
There is a shot during the film that hints at Ratso's future or perhaps his past. A shot of a Times Square symbol of the sun with dazzling lights is followed by the X in the window of the tenement apartment. The sun has been or will be X'ed out, the man has not made it to his place in the sun and we wonder if he will make it to the sun in Miami; he has already been crossed out, rejected, X'ed out of the sunny life by poverty,physical handicap, disfranchisement.
Historically and cosmically, the sun has been used as the symbol of one's vitality and life. The X tells us that this man has lost his vitality and will lose his life. But will he? Is it a way of preparing us for a blow in the same way that a dream or premonition prepares us for a dramatic turn of events, or has the blow already been made?
Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight did a magnificent job.
I first saw this film at the age of 13, over forty years ago, and all I had remembered about it was the ending and the theme of loneliness, and that it had made me cry. (But how on earth did I get into that film if it was rated X? That is now a mystery to me.) Now, after 40 years, I have just watched this film again and been even more moved the second time round, knowing much more about life, about illness and death, poverty of both the soul and the wallet, and about roads taken to dreams that never manifest. Love is more important than the dreams. That's what our young hearts finally find out before we die. Or at least that's what we hope, for "dreams are as fleeting as the northern midnight wind."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a sad film about a man named Joe Buck, played by John Voight,
who is looking for something great and somehow remains hopeful
throughout the entire film. He travels on a bus from Texas to New York
City trying to be a hustler. However, all he finds is his friend Ratso
and a run down building with no heat. He never really seems to fully
understand just how bad things are. Throughout the film we see
unbelievable poverty, with Ratso stealing clothes and food just to stay
alive. At the beginning of the film Ratso Rizzo seems like a character
you should not like but somehow end up feeling bad for. Joe is so
innocent that he stays with Ratso in this horrible situation; partly
because he has no where else to go and also because he just wants to
take care of his friend.
This film uses a lot of flash backs to help us understand Joe's past; to see what he's running away from and where he wants to be. We are shown flash backs of his girlfriend who seems to have been attacked and taken away from Joe. We also see flashes of his grandmother who didn't care about him all much and leaving him alone all the time to go out. There is another clip in which we see who is probably his mother, giving him away to her mother. All his life Joe has been given away and left alone to fend for himself. However, he still doesn't know how to truly take care of himself.
Voight and Hoffman's performances were excellent. Voight really showed his innocence with his facial expressions when he was confused or shocked. Hoffman's portrayal of a poverty stricken con man was amazing and a type of role I had never seen him in before. His limp and cough added a whole other dimension to his character and made us feel sorry for him. As he tries to teach Joe how to be a hustler in the big city, Joe never really learns anything and continues to get confused or thrown out of places. When Ratso gets really sick Joe finally agrees to take him to Florida. As their traveling, there is again a sense of hope with Joe. He feels like this is a new start and Ratso will be alright. However, this time he ends up alone again, holding his dead friend in his arms with no idea of what to do or where to go next.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Midnight Cowboy is one of the most unique films I have ever seen. The
film starts by introducing Joe Buck (Jon Voight) to us. We see him
getting dressed in his cowboy suit and packing his suitcase. His suit
is loud, with his bright shirt and cowboy hat, in an era that most
people did not dress that way. He seems somewhat surreal and over the
top. He goes to what seems to be his job and quits because he intends
to travel to New York City from Texas. We are not quite sure what his
intentions are. He mentions, to a friend, that he wants to become a
male hustler when he arrives in New York. He meets many different
people on the bus to New York. During this time, we see that Joe is
essentially a nice person. There is a scene where he makes friendly
gestures towards a kid. This scene is ironic because we get the
impression that Joe is also a child. He seems very naive in almost
every way. His naiveté is shown in the way he dresses, thinking himself
to be a cowboy, in the way he acts, in the way he feels it is going to
be easy to be a male hustler, and in the way he feels living in New
York is going to be so much easier than living in Texas.
When Joe arrives in New York, he realizes that it was not going to as easy as he thought. He tries to get women to notice him and realize that he is a male hustler but to no avail. One woman does notice him and they have sex. Then she asks him for money for a cab before he asks for money for the sex. When he does, she breaks down and cries. Joe, being a genuinely nice person, offers her money for the cab and she eventually receives twenty dollars. This scene shows how naive Joe really is. Eventually Joe meets the other protagonist in the film, Rico Salvatore Rizzo a.k.a. "Ratso" Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman). Ratso seems to know the ropes and how the city works. He has one limp leg and he does not look like a very trustworthy person at first glance. Eventually, the two create a friendship after Joe needs a place to live and Ratso lets Joe live with him. Together, they meet hard times, without money and they live through a winter without heat.
Each main character has a plan or a dream. Joe wants to become a successful male hustler in order to become rich while Ratso wants to go to Florida and live there. It seems, while watching the film, that neither character will achieve his dream. It is sad, but realistic because, for most people, things do not work out the way they plan. In America, we have been taught that anyone can do anything; that is the American dream. This film shows quite the opposite. Joe never becomes a successful hustler and Ratso dies at the end of the film. Midnight Cowboy film mirrors Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider. Both films deal with journeys and the destruction of the American dream. Both films have sad endings and do not leave the audience with any good feelings. At the end of the film, Joe's naiveté leaves him at the end of the film. When Joe and Ratso arrive in Florida, Joe has to be one in charge because Ratso is unable to walk. Joe buys new clothes and dumps his cowboy outfit. This is the first time we see him without it. After Ratso dies, we know that Joe has to fend for himself and grow up.
As I said before, this was a unique film. It had great performances by Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman. It was superbly directed by John Schlesinger. The film still seems to be odd to me but a likable film nonetheless. It will go down as one of the best modern classics out there. I recommend the film. Even though I am not sure everyone will like it, it is still a film everyone should see.
I remember being disappointed at not being old enough to see this movie when it was first released. I would have to wait another 11 years to see it on video,but it was worth the wait.No movie I have seen since has captured the loneliness and dependence of two souls in an cold city. Shot in New York it could have easily have been Toronto or even Minneapolis anyplace the temperature dips below freezing. I felt cold when Ratso and Joe Buck were cold. When they were hungry I felt the pangs as well. Dustin Hoffman & Jon Voight inhabited the characters and at once made we want to help and "walk faster". The movie perfectly snaps a shot of the late sixties and preserves the psychedelia and pace. This is a must see for anyone who claims to love movies
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A ride on an emotion roller-coaster would be the best way to describe
the film Midnight Cowboy, by director John Schlesinger. The ups and
downs that the protagonist Joe Buck (played by John Voight) is
subjected to truly throw the viewer around as if they were an up and
coming hustler themselves. It is a story of starting a whole new life
in a strange new world, thinking that you really know what you're
after, and yet finding that the life you thought you wanted doesn't
want you. Joe Buck is a young "stud" that is trying to pursue a career
in hustling the rich middle aged women of New York City. He soon finds
himself homeless, broke, and beat up by urban society. He becomes a
lonely "midnight cowboy" roaming the streets, with his manager Enrico
Salvatore 'Ratso' Rizzo (played by Dustin Hoffman), searching for
whatever trick he can find.
Joe leaves Texas as an innocent young man with visions of the illustrious urban life. We come to find out that his emigration from Texas to New York City isn't just driven by dreams, but also by the yearning to cover up a past of abandonment and bad memories. This would become a reoccurring theme in the film, one of being left by the people who are closest to you, with most incidences being revealed in flashback form. Joe is first dumped on his grandmother by his mother and aunt (or two mothers) at a young age, and she soon became his mother figure. Joe then acquired a girlfriend as a teenager/young adult and is left by her due to some sexual assault altercations that are revealed to the viewer in graphic reoccurring nightmares and daydreams. The last flashback memory of feeling alone is a scene of Joe returning to his home after serving in the army. He is shown sitting on the steps of his grandmother's dilapidated house, and we come to find that he is just as abandoned as the house.
Once Joe reaches New York City he is soon hit with the reality of his situation. Many up-scale women are not into being hustled, cowboys have come to be seen as having a homosexual connotation, and the only place he can find work as a cowboy is in a modern art exposition that is actually an abstract art trip fest. It is here he solidifies the only real work he gets as a hustler, other than beating up a gay preacher who is "sorry for his sins".
In dealing with living in a condemned house, not knowing where your next meal is coming from, and taking care of his dying manager Rico, Joe realizes that maybe hustling and living in the city isn't for him. He is forced to discard the life he thought he was made for and travel south to Florida for Rico's sake. Once the two make it to Florida, and obtain dapper beach-life attire, Rico takes a turn for the worst and passes away, sealing the theme of abandonment in the film. Joe is left alone, and must roll with the punches of life once again.
I believe this film is about the trials a traditionalist goes through while trying to assimilate themselves in a modern culture. Joe knows what New York City symbolizes, wealth and a new way of life, but he doesn't understand how it functions because he hasn't the experience to know better. This film probably played a big role in opening the countries eyes up to the new down and outers of society, and what life has come to for them. The majority of the tricks Joe found were homosexuals in the late 60s who were then only lurking in the shadows and trying to stay unnoticed by the radar of society. The explicit nature of the film brought to light the underbellies of the late 60s culture, and did it so well that even though it created and uproar with its release it still has been the only X (NC-17) rated film to ever win Best Picture by the Academy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the words of another "classic" of the period, where do I begin?
Finally saw this Academy Award winner on DVD (I was 14 when it made its
X-rated theater debut) and was appalled at how bad it was.
Hoffman and Voight do credible jobs in the lead roles. And the soundtrack is enjoyable. But the plot is threadbare, and the two main characters so endlessly stupid as to be implausible.
(SPOILER example: In a scene which could have come straight from Jim Carrey's "Dumb and Dumber," Buck and Ratso hang outside a male escort agency to pickpocket a lead from a departing gigolo. The agency is RIGHT THERE why doesn't Buck simply apply for a job?) One gets the feeling if the two passed a display on Park Avenue offering free money, they'd conspire to steal the sign instead.
A party scene later in the film is straight out of the Late '60s Psychedelic Party filmmaker's manual. The main reason the predictability of the conclusion wasn't overly disappointing was because I stopped caring about these two clowns an hour into the film. Sad to say this Midnight Emperor is as unclothed as its Oscar statuettes.
This is one of the half-dozen films that left me shaken upon leaving the theater where I saw it in 1969 (at the age of 19). It has all the bizarreness and griminess that was New York in the late '60s, which was pretty frightening to a sheltered Brooklyn teenager. The direction and cinematography were highly unusual for that time, and the use of montages and cuts (and the trippy shots of the Warholesque party) made the film even more disorienting. The film never sags and holds your attention throughout, and the through line of the plot -- the friendship between Rizzo and Joe Buck -- has about as much emotional impact as anything else I've ever seen. Equally of interest is the psychological content of the flashbacks that show how Joe became the way he is. The star performances are outstanding -- hard to see how either of them could lose to John Wayne -- and the sheer variety of supporting actor performances is incredible. A fully realized, three-dimensional film that probably couldn't find backers today.
Midnight Cowboy is a very good movie, to say the least. I wasn't sure
what to expect because of that controversial X-rating. But I was
hearing this is one of the better influential films of the twentieth
century, so I thought it was my duty to check it out. Now the film is
about a close friendship that forged between two borderline criminals.
How they go through life may not be endearing, but the friendship that
is forged between them is very striking and moving. By the film's end,
I have come to feel for the characters. The film does have a distinct
overtone involving homosexuality, which is incredibly rare for a film
in the 1960's. I think that is part of the controversy this film
received. That being said, this is a fine work of art that stands to
keep its hold in most influential films list.
John Schlesinger's film is about a Texas hustler named Joe Buck who decides to move east to explore opportunities involving money and women. But he quickly realizes that New York City is nothing like his Texas hometown. He meets this outcast named Ratso who decides to show him how to strike it rich in the Big Apple. As the adventures start sailing, an everlasting friendship is forged between the two men.
Now one thing that makes the film work the way it did was the outstanding performances. Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight have incredible chemistry with each other. Hoffman was coming off his role that fueled him to stardom in the Graduate and Voight just began what is the start of an incredible movie career. I really liked the makeup of the two characters. Voight, who is oblivious to the culture of the East with his cowboy attire in full swing while in the streets of NYC, and Hoffman who actually fits the name Ratso as I felt he resembled something of a human rat.
Overall, Midnight Cowboy is a fantastic movie. A movie about friendship. It was a heart-warming experience for me. The ending of the movie was very proper, if a tad emotional. I can see why people rave about this movie. Now this may not end up as my all-time favorite movie, but I'd certainly put it in my top 50 films. There are a few small flaws, but nothing that hurts the film in all. If you have doubts about Hoffman and Voight as great actors, just watch Midnight Cowboy.
My Grade: A
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