Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Midnight Cowboy
Directed by John Schlesinger
Written by Waldo Salt based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy
(number 316)

A super classic song opens this film, one that I had no idea was from a movie. Everybody’s talkin’. Have a listen…

Here’s another film I sat down to watch knowing nothing about. Not even who’s in it, but here it turns out to be a movie starring Dustin Hoffman. Got a lot of those in this list as it happens. I’m not sure I’m a Hoffman fan.

The lovemaking sequence has a gorgeous montage of various images off tv culminating with a jackpot of cowgirls, yeah. Perfect.

It’s a funny kind of story, on the surface it’s a story about two grifters sticking together to make it in NYC. But I think it’s a gay love story about two men so messed up and broken they can’t admit they’re gay. Certainly there’s lots of hints of that being what’s going on. Generally the story is about two men who aren’t as smart as they think they are trying to be Hustlers in big bad New York city. They fall on each other for support. Joe is a bumpkin with a nasty past (nasty things were done to him and the mentally disabled girl he loved), Rico is sharper, but his weakness is his body – chronic illness and no immune system to speak of.

Reading a little more into the background of the movie I see that the filmmaker of this was gay, so there’s not any doubt in my mind now that this is a low key gay love story. We do get some gay love scenes but they’re generally Joe not particularly wanting to pursue them and there’s often violence after each one. It’s very much of its time: to tell a gay love story would have been problematic, so he had to show all the various possible (negative) reactions. To show that generally it is/was looked down on, done in dark places or by people who were very afraid of being found out.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, Joe more then Rico. Although once I realised that this is the origin of the naming of Rizzo the Rat from muppets I liked him a bit better. I just don’t love Dustin Hoffman’s voice, I find it annoying. His slow decline in health felt inevitable but didn’t move me perhaps as much as it was meant to.

Bechdel test: No. There are a number of named women in the movie, but they talk to the men. There’s women interacting with each other at the Warhol-esque party but none of them are named.

Best line:

Rico: Here I am, goin’ to Florida, my leg hurts, my butt hurts, my chest hurts, my face hurts, and like that ain’t enough, I gotta pee all over myself.
[Joe laughs]
Rico: That’s funny? I’m fallin’ apart here!
Joe: It’s just – Know what happened? You just took a little rest stop that wasn’t on the schedule!

State of Mind: It’s pretty bleak, I really want to watch something nice and cheerful now. It’s nice to have what is more or less a gay story in the list, but it’s a pity that it’s a tropey one where one of them dies, faggot is tossed about as an insult multiple times and most of the gay people are shown to be unsavoury or brutalised. I have very mixed emotions is what I’m saying, and I’m unsure about watching it again, even if it had a great soundtrack.

Watched movie count


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