September 12, 2019
Fifty years on, Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman’s squabbling amid the squalor of low-rent New York remains a heartbreaking triumph
Midnight Cowboy review – a still potent stew of 60s sleaze
Before bromance, there was Midnight Cowboy. Brama? Bragedy? This movie – on rerelease for its 50th anniversary – is about two men finding friendship in the desolate common cause of their loneliness. It was adapted by screenwriter Waldo Salt from the novel by James Leo Herlihy, and the original author’s friendship with Tennessee Williams shows up faintly as an influence in the film’s depiction of vulnerable small-town boys in the big city. The director was John Schlesinger – an Englishman who brought the kitchen-sink realism and hopeless yearning of earlier movies such as Billy Liar to Midnight Cowboy’s domestic scenes of our two sad heroes squabbling in their grimy New York squat, quarrelling over the cooking and fantasising about riches and relaxing in the Florida sun.
Jon Voight plays Joe Buck, a pretty young guy with a poignantly open and trusting face who is kicking the Texas dust off his cowboy boots and heading for New York City on the bus, leaving behind sad memories – which return as traumatised flashback-fragments – of being brought up by his grandma, a lost love, small-town spite and apparently rape, of both his girlfriend and Joe himself.
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