‘Desperate Souls, The Dark City, and The Legend of the Midnight Cowboy’ – The Hollywood Reporter

One publishing trend these days is to write an entire book about making a good movie. In the last few years, there have been books about West story (the 1961 Oscar winner, not the Spielberg remake), The Wild Bunch, Chinatown and Godfather, to name a few. Glenn Frankel, who wrote previous books on crafting Hot sun and Searcherfollowed last year with Midnight Cowboy Shooting: Art, Sex, Loneliness, Liberation, and Making a Dark Classic. Now, that book has inspired a new Nancy Buirski documentary, which is showing in both Venice and Tellurida.

While a 101-minute film will never have the breadth or depth of a 340-page book, Buirski’s film has the advantage of providing on-camera interviews with some of the main characters. of the film, including actors Jon Voight, Brenda Vaccaro and Bob Balaban. Voight is particularly passionate about testifying to his admiration for director John Schlesinger and the fierceness of the film’s depiction of the friendship between two social outcasts, the hustler Joe Buck and the rogue Ratso Rizzo, played by Dustin Hoffman. Buirski was unable to secure an interview with Hoffman, although she relied on audio interviews conducted by Frankel to do research for his book.

Desperate Souls, The Dark City and The Legend of the Midnight Cowboy

Key point

Infrequent lighting.

One downside of the film is that it relies too much on voice-over commentary, not just from Hoffman but from interviews with Schlesinger and screenwriter Waldo Salt done decades ago. (Schlesinger died in 2003.) Some of these monstrous voices are not identified as often as they might be, and they become fatigued. Daughter of Salt, actress and writer Jennifer Salt, who had a small role in Midnight cowboy and also had an affair with Voight while they were filming, providing some of the harshest on-camera commentary.

The film suffers in several respects when compared to Frankel’s book. He is able to weave two larger themes – the decline of New York City during the period described in Midnight cowboy and the film’s revolutionary gay content (largely derived from James Leo Herlihy’s original novels), reflects a major shift in American culture in the late 1960s. Buirski did not include some pertinent commentary by gay historians such as Charles Kaiser (Gay urban), and she also delves into Schlesinger’s own struggles with her sexuality. Here, the filmmaker relies on a number of revealing interviews with Schlesinger’s grandson, Ian Buruma, and with the director’s mate, Michael Childers. But perhaps inevitably, she doesn’t do justice to this larger theme of Frankel’s book.

Instead, Buirski tries to link the film to the turmoil surrounding the Vietnam War, and these comparisons often seem forced. Of course, many of the dark films created in the late 1960s indirectly reflected the disillusionment caused by American involvement in Vietnam, but Buirski overstated the issue without really providing enough insight. insight to bring it home. The fight is shown both at the beginning and at the end of this film, and this emphasis seems tense.

Perhaps the strongest element in the film, aside from some fruitful interviews, are the generous clips from Midnight cowboy it’s him. These excerpts highlight the more tonal elements of the film, including some less idyllic depictions of same-sex sexual encounters, along with the tenderness in the scenes between Hoffman and Voight.

Buirski has produced a number of documents before that, including one about director Sidney Lumet, an early study of Loving v Virginia legalizing interracial marriage, and other powerful films about conflict. racial breakdown. Her latest film may not be her strongest yet, but it will encourage viewers to learn more about some of the forgotten players in the series. Midnight cowboy saga, including Waldo and Jennifer Salt, cinematographer Adam Holender and casting director Marion Dougherty, who played a key role in bringing Voight to Schlesinger’s attention.

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