No 307 - Midnight Cowboy
Director - John Schlesinger
This is a very odd little film. I'm not sure I can easily explain what it is about, but it features Joe Buck, a very naive and equally full of himself Texan who moves to New York in order to become a man ho, a male gigolo. However, it is not an easy job and he finds himself poorer and poorer with less and less to own.
As he becomes more cynical and more impoverished, he is taken in and looked after by Rizzo, a sickly thief and reprobate. Together they squat in condemned building and try desperately to get by. As you may be able to tell, this isn't the jolliest of films.
I do really like the initial Joe Buck. When we meet him in Texas, he is full of life and pep and vigour. He is proud of the way he looks, he wears beautifully flamboyant shirts and dresses like an old school cowboy. He is chivalrous, kind and just so bloody happy about everything. He really is an adorable character. The kindness and the optimism balances out the arrogance which also runs through him. However, as the world weary cynicism of New York starts to wear him down, all we are left with is his arrogance. Which isn't quite as nice when he isn't a ridiculously happy Texan.
He spends his time bad mouthing and belittling Rizzo, slagging him off as well as threatening violence. There is an interesting undercurrent of violence running through Joe. On several occasions he manages to stop himself just before doing something dangerous. But at one point he attacks a man and potentially kills him (the scene is left unclear). He just becomes a far less likable character, whereas Rizzo begins the film as a sleazy slimy horrible thief and con artist and gradually gets more likable.
It helps that Rizzo is played by Dustin Hoffman, who I think is an amazing actor and just a fabulously funny person (from what I've seen). He manages to give Rizzo the right mix of emotions. He is a streetwise manipulator of people but he is also very sick and his squalid living conditions mean he is just getting sicker.
You realise that despite the tempestuous relationship between the two men, they need each other to survive. It is this weird relationship, best friends who hate each other, which spurs the film on.
Despite the fairly simple buddy element , the film does some really bizarre things in its presentation. There are a lot of flashback scenes which are grainy and obscure and cut in a way that means nothing really makes sense. You just get flashing images of Joe's past but you can see that it involves a lot of violence and a strange relationship with his first girlfriend. Whilst the flashbacks show quite a scary tale of passion and obsession, the script only addresses it once.
Women go crazy for me, that's a really true fact! Ratso, hell! Crazy Annie they had to send her away!
You realise that really Joe is escaping something. The way he dresses, and the ideals of the old west help him to escape from his modern life and his moving to New York helps him escape Texas. He has no luck in New York and instead he meets somebody who is also trying to escape. From New York.
So together they go to Miami.
It is only when they reach Florida that Joe becomes comfortable, he ditches his Cowboy outfit and relaxes.. Happy. Yet that happiness doesn't last long and the film's final moment is so tragic (yet obvious and unavoidable from about halfway through the film) that it leaves you on a massive low.
As shocked and upset as the characters in the film.