By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on May 20, 2023)
Aside from its distinction as being the only X-rated film to earn Oscars, John Schlesinger’s groundbreaking, idiosyncratic character study Midnight Cowboy (1969) also ushered in an era of mature, gritty realism in American film that flourished from the early to mid-1970s. The film was Schlesinger’s first U.S.-based project; he had already made a name for himself in his native England with films like A Kind of Loving, Billy Liar, Darling, and Far From the Madding Crowd.
As pointed out in Nancy Buirski’s absorbing documentary, what came to be called the “New Hollywood” movement was fueled in part by ex-pat European filmmakers (like Schlesinger) bringing their unique “outsider” perspective on American politics, social mores, and popular culture to the table. Buirski not only offers fresh insights on how Midnight Cowboy came together, but perfectly recreates the zeitgeist of 1969.