Friday, August 24, 2007

Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy; drama, USA, 1969; D: John Schlesinger, S: Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Brenda Vaccaro, John McGiver, Sylvia Miles, Ruth White

Naive Joe Buck, a young guy from Texas, arrives with a bus to New York dressed as a cowboy. His plan is to earn money either as a gigolo or as a male prostitute, but already his first encounter with a lady called Cass places him in a embarrassing situation and he has to pay her to stop her hysteria. Although the street thug Rizzo robs him, Joe becomes his friend. Since Joe only gets rented by gay men, he starts stealing with Rizzo. When their apartment gets torn down they become homeless, but in a weird pub some eccentric people offer them to join the party. Everything there is full of glimmer and strange people, and Joe gets hired by an older woman. When another gay man asks for his favors, Joe looses his patience and beats him up, driving away with Rizzo in a bus towards Miami. But Rizzo dies on the way there from a disease.

Drastic presentation of underground world of New York by the British director John Schlesinger is inhabited by gay people, a male prostitute hero, homeless men and misery and much more understandable today due to its unpleasant realism, but even today "Midnight Cowboy" seems shocking, not to mention how the audience reacted during its premiere in 1969. Still, this outsider tale won 3 Oscars, 6 BAFTAs (including best picture) and one Golden Globe (most promising newcomer Jon Voight) and became a small anti-classic. The film's style and structure are truly unusual: from time to time the color photography is replaced with black and white, the reflections of the hero Joe on his childhood as well as the excellent fantasy day dreaming sequence of Rizzo who imagines he is in Miami taking care of people in wheelchairs. Although it contains a dirty and straightforward approach, the story is never slimy, unbearable or vague because Schlesinger is very disciplined and portrays the world in rarely seen perspective, not caring how much he pushes the envelope, and Dustin Hoffman is great as the street crook Rizzo that can always find a way out of a crisis, often saying how "the only thing you need is Sun and coconut milk". Among the downsides of the film are the lack of subtlety and beauty in this bizarre, bitter document of the bleaker side of the world.


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