Midnight Cowboy (1969)

For those who have never seen it and those who have never forgotten it. (1980 re-release)

Original Title : Midnight Cowboy
Director : John Schlesinger
Writer : James Leo Herlihy
Waldo Salt
Genre : Drama
Country : USA
Language : English
Producer : Jerome Hellman , Kenneth Utt
Music : John Barry
Floyd Huddleston
Fred Neil
Photography : Adam Holender
Distributor : United Artists [us]
IMDB ID : 0064665
Official site :
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poster for "Midnight Cowboy" by John Schlesinger (1969)
Midnight Cowboy (1969) - John Schlesinger


┬Dustin Hoffman Ratso
┬Jon Voight Joe Buck
┬Sylvia Miles Cass
┬John McGiver I
┬Brenda Vaccaro Shirley
┬Barnard Hughes Towny
┬Ruth White II
┬Ruth White II


A "cowboy," Joe Buck, moves to New York City from Texas to make his fortune as a hustler servicing rich Park Avenue women. Shortly after arriving, he is hustled by homeless con man Ratzo Rizzo, who had said he would manage him for a $20 fee. Bent on getting his money back, Buck finds the rapidly deteriorating Rizzo, ends up feeling sorry for him, and moving into Rizzo's room in an abandoned building to care for him. The two remain hopeful of striking it rich with Rizzo managing Buck's career, but it soon becomes obvious that they are no match for the urban jungle.


Gloaming Spoilers herein. This film is of historical interest only. It has two components of note: the acting and the `new' notion of the eye. First, the eye. Schlesinger -- I think -- was instructed to affect a European/Russian style of parallel overlain visual consciousness, sort of a poor man's Joyce. In doing so: --We have memory vision, both false and true. --We have daydreams and fantasies. --We have drugged confusion. --We have dreams. --We have a symbolic city/labyrinth (after Joe escapes from the Jesus freak). All are treated in the same way and sometimes mixed. There is some art in the associations but the shifts in layers wasn't well thought out. I suppose Schlesinger felt it was all the same uncontrolled environment in which Joe (and sometimes Ratso) drifts. But it is a very blunt notion. Only a very few camera tricks are used. A rhythm escapes us, a matter of unfamiliarity with what was needed rather than a deliberate statement of chaos (as in `Requiem for a Dream'). I have to give Schlesinger a lot of credit for the attempt. Though artless, it achieved much of its intent because most of us were so unfamiliar with the notion -- and because it is peppered with then-titillating snippets and then-novel location shots. (He wandered into similarly adventuresome territory with `Day of the Locust,' and did better.) But in the context of this experiment -- and completely, wholly unrelated to it -- is the matter of the performances. I am not a fan of Dustin's. There's usually too much visible work involved in his characters. But here, that is somewhat submerged. The film is of ironies about engineered yearning versus on-rushing reality, so it is apt that we have Hoffman trying so incredibly hard to make a person who has the inability to try even the slightest. Its not art, but it is interesting. He bumps effectively off of the doe-eyed Voight, who never had a real career. One can see why here. His character works because he is essentially characterless, but such opportunities are rare. The best acting is by Brenda Vaccaro. As with all intellectual projects, there is a film within the film (the party which triggers the death). Nothing is made of this self-reference, but the iron rule holds that the abstract `distance' of the film within to the film is the same as that of the film to `real' life. Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 4: Has some interesting elements.
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Midnight Cowboy (1969) - John Schlesinger
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Midnight Cowboy (1969) - John Schlesinger
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Midnight Cowboy (1969) - John Schlesinger