Midnight Cowboy (1969) is an ultra-realistic, adult film (shot on location) with sordid, downbeat and serious content, from British director John Schlesinger, who had previously directed the widely-acclaimed Darling (1965) – with a Best Actress win for Julie Christie.
This film portrays the unlikely companionship and poignant tragic drama of two homeless, down-and-out, anti-hero drifters who are powerfully bonded together in a tale resembling Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. With a misleading title for the morality tale about the venomous American class system, some viewers thought it was a western; in fact, the film’s title expresses the code name for a “male hustler” – the self-professed occupation of one of the characters, a slow-witted, fringe-jacketed Texan dishwasher transplanted to the big, apathetic city of New York to hopefully become a high-paid street gigolo.
The flip-side of this dark and serious buddy picture was its major competitor of the year, the M-rated, humorous revisionistic western/comedy Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) with its heroes Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford).
It was notable for being the first and only X-rated film (its nude scenes and bold content – sex and drugs – were shocking for its time, but its X-rating for its initial release was later downgraded to R when the film was re-released in late 1970) to receive the Best Picture Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
It garnered seven nominations, including Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight), Best Supporting Actress (Sylvia Miles in an extremely brief on-screen role), and Best Film Editing (Hugh A. Robertson), and ended up with three Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay (by Waldo Salt from James Leo Herlihy’s 1965 novel).
It was an archetypal film for the “New Hollywood” of the 70s, with its adult themes of alienation, sex and drugs, anti-authoritarianism, and a quest for freedom.
MIDNIGHT COWBOY is the first of four films that is chosen by JEFFREY LEWIS who will be introducing each film via video link.
Place to be is The Royal British Legion in 111 Melita Street, Valletta.
Time to be is 20 hours, 30 minutes.