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Movie Critic Review: Midnight Cowboy (1969)



In this video clip from the very beginning of the movie Midnight Cowboy,  the combined visual and auditory effects deliver the viewer right into the specific reality. In the first shot there is a brief surge of the typical war cries, horse gallops and gunshot noise of the Western genre on a blank screen. The camera zooms out on the huge screen of a drive-thru theater in broad daylight! Then a nostalgic squeak is gradually overridden by a singing voice which takes us into the beautiful banjo arpeggios of the song "Everybody Is Talkin".  In the closing shot for the credits we see the profile of a woman drinking from a Coke bottle.
Enough signifiers. We are in the land of the American dream! 
Most people who read the novel, which was in itself a success, believe the movie is a 95% honest novel-to-movie translation.
It tells the story of a naive young man (a cowboy from Texas) who moves east to New York to live off of rich women. New York to live off of rich women.
He is a loser who aspires to become a gigolo but ends up as a midnight cowboy!
A would-be male-whore whose dreams are lost in fictitious or uncertain sexual orientation.of a human being to belong During the long bus journey from Texas to New York, the young cowboy Joe Buck remembers bits of his twisted upbringing. Loss, abandonment, incest and rape constitute a great part of his confused ego.
In New York, he falls victim to his own illusion and pays the first woman he meets instead of having her pay him! He then meets this crippled con man Rizzo who tells him he needed management to become a hustler. Buck likes the idea and Rizzo sends him to see a pimp who knew a lot of women and can help manage his future business. Buck pays Rizzo twice for this referral but his encounter with the pimp turns nightmarish as the pimp, who is also a religious bigot and a homosexual, freaks out on him stirring all the bad memories from his disturbed childhood. After escaping from the pimp, Buck goes into financial trouble and has to leave the hotel for not paying his dues. He finds Rizzo who is unable to give him back his money but offers to invite him to his place. An unbelievably poor room in a condemned building. The couple try several misadventures and end up stealing food. Rizzo faces Buck by his observation that women are actually repelled by his cowboy suit. Buck declines from his dream as a hustler to making money out of gays in third class cinema theaters. Rizzo gets sicker in his chest and becomes less mobile after a fall in the stairs to a building where he accompanies Buck who gets invited in a bizarre way to a party attended by weird people- whackos as described by Rizzo. After several misadventures in the cold winter in a harsh big city, Rizzo's way-out appears to be acceptable to Buck. Rizzo wants to go to Florida. Buck accepts to go since, according to Rizzo's guess, it is easier to score more women in Florida. Because the most basic life needs (coconut oil and sunshine) are abundant there!  But two major events make their trip to Florida not quite a happy one! Schlesinger's portrayal of the life and poverty of underbelly New York earned him some bitter criticism that unfortunately targeted his own sexual orientation (he was an admitted gay). Nothing in the movie ascertains that the cowboy Joe Buck is gay or that the movie is about a love story between two gays. It is the story of how important is friendship to human beings and how complementary to one another are human takes on life. John Schlesinger, the British filmmaker, read the novel Midnight Cowboy by the American novelist James Leo Herlihy during a vacation in North Africa and decided to make it into a movie. He joined efforts with Waldo Salt (who later wrote the screenplay for Coming Home 1975) and they came out with one of the classics of cinema in terms of their brilliant utilization of the elements of cinematic expression. The movie is full of vivid imageries depicting dreams, memories and subtle ideas filmed with a great sense of the visual. Midnight Cowboy won the Oscar for best film, best director and best screeplay. It was the only X-rated movie to win an Oscar. As for acting, I guess it would be hard to chose who to give an Oscar for best actor in this movie. The new-comer John Voight pulled off really good acting in front of the giant Dustin Hoffman. They both were great.   Midnight Cowboy (1969)
113 min, color, Dolby Digital.
Producer: Jerome hellman
Director: John Schlesinger Screenplay: Waldo Salt, based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy
Art Direction: John Robert Lloyd. Cinematography: Adam Holender
Editing: Hugh A. Robertson
Music: John Barry, composer of most scores for James Bond movies.
Listen to John Barry's theme here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGORPUzLxtU&feature=related) The opening song by Fred Neil "Everybody Is Talkin" was sung by Harry Nilsson. Cast: Dustin Hoffman (Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo), Jon Voight (Joe Buck), Sylvia Miles (Cass), John McGiver (O'Daniel), Brenda Vaccaro (Shirley), Barnard Hughes (Towny), Ruth White (Sally Buck), Jennifer Salt (Annie), Gilman Rankin (Woodsy Niles), Bob Balaban (young boy in movie theatre).
Midnight Cowboy also scored seven Oscar nominations winning Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay (Waldo Salt). 
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