‘Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy’ Review

How did ‘Midnight Cowboy’ hold its ties to the cultural shifts of the 1960s? Documentary “Desperate Souls, Dark City, and Midnight Cowboy Legends” I quote a lot.

The film was revolutionary in its portrayal of sex, especially in acknowledging the existence of gay life. It tweaked the film’s cowboy archetype at a time when Westerns allegorized US involvement in Vietnam. Screenwriter Waldo Salt was blacklisted in the 1950s. This made use of the possibility of filming on location in New York, and was able to capture aspects of New York City (such as the hustlers and the homeless) that had so far been rarely shown on screen or confined to experimental films. rice field. An interlude later in the film chronicled elements of Warhol’s art scene.

And 1969’s Oscar-winning Best Picture, Midnight Cowboy, may have been a rare example of how the Academy Awards embraced a significant shift in American life. (Or maybe the Academy was thinking forward and backward at the same time. Two interviewees said that John Wayne, a war advocate and icon of a more conservative America, was the star of the year. He pointed out that he won the best actor award for “True Grit.”

Whether Midnight Cowboy deserves or bears the same weight as Desperate Souls, director Nancy Bilski does a good job of combining small tidbits with big-picture insights, sometimes exaggerating and obscuring. Or just presenting these issues. This documentary might have pinpointed more clearly why, for example, “Midnight Cowboy” was rated X and later changed to R.

But Desperate Souls is like no other era when Joe Buck (Jon Voight) and Lazzo Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) became enduring movie characters, much less the tenderness between them. He argues convincingly that there has never been a time when his paintings were so nuanced. (This documentary is inspired by Glenn Frankel’s 2021 book Filming Midnight Cowboys: Art, Sex, Loneliness, Liberation, and Making Dark Classics.)

Buirsky’s film owes much credit to the famous British director John Schlesinger, who shot the first motion picture in America. In Desperate Souls, he noted that in his next film, Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971), he would once again break new ground in terms of portraying gay life. Through Finch’s character, he may have acknowledged an outsider’s perspective of himself as a gay, Jewish ), relatively upper-class Englishman).

Voight, interviewed for the documentary, recalled predicting Schlesinger with playful accuracy that they would live in the shadows of the film. (He was also in the screen test, which makes me wonder how he got the role.) Schlesinger (who died in 2003) and Hoffman’s voices are heard in voice clips.

But some of the strongest commentaries are from Charles Kaiser (author of Gay Metropolis), critic Lucy Santé, and regular New York Times contributor J. from writers who can stand outside the film itself, like Personally). Santé suggests that all place the film in a historical context, and that its significance is at least partly accidental. “When people describe their time, it’s usually a coincidence.”

Desperate Souls, Dark City, and Midnight Cowboy Legends
Unrated. Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes. at the theater.

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