Wednesday, June 23, 2010

#166 Midnight Cowboy (1969)


Director: John Schlesinger

Cast: Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Sylvia Miles, John McGiver, Brenda Vaccaro, Barnard Hughes

Joe Buck (Voight) is a young man from Texas who has just quit his job as a dishwasher and hopped on a bus to New York City. He plans to make a big buck by 'hustling' from wealthy, upper-crust ladies, but it turns out he's the one that gets hustled. Slow to catch on to the New York way of life and standing out like a black cat in snow with his cowboy get-up, he loses just about everything, including a bit of his pride.

He befriends a scammer, Ratso Rizzo (Hoffman), and what at firsts seems to be a relationship formed out of necessity soon becomes a close camaraderie. Rizzo's illnesses become a concern for Buck, and for the sake of friendship, he finds himself doing things he never imagined himself to do.

Having heard about this film from a friend years ago, this was not at all the image I had painted in my mind. I never expected this to be a film about friendship, and further, I never expected this to be a film starring Dustin Hoffman. I thought the film was not only emotional, but it was masterfully filmed. The flashbacks, though jarring and confusing, gave hints into Voight's character, and I appreciated that-- he was a man of few words. Hoffman, as always, was a captivating presence as Rizzo.

When this film was released, it was rated X (no admittance under age 17). It was the first rated X film to be shown on television, to a president while in office, and to win an Oscar. It eventually had its rating dropped to R without removing any content of the film, interestingly enough.

I had heard bad things about this movie, but I found it be rather classic in nature. I can see where a lot of later films have drawn influence from it, and I respect that. And who knew Jon Voight was actually hott at one point? Weird. Anyway, I give it 4 stars for being just centimeters below what I would call cinematic gold, and I would definitely love to see this movie again.

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