Posts tagged “Midnight Cowboy

I Need Your Help


I need your help,

I’m working with my local community library in Rothley. For the past few months I have been writing and running a Film Talk. We want to engage with the local community and share my passion for film. It’s early days and we are struggling to connect with the right and steady audience to make this really work.

So far we have discussed It’s A Wonderful Life (1947), A Kind of Loving (1962) and Midnight Cowboy (1969). We have another one lined up, ready and waiting too!

Moving forward I have been working with the Rothley Community Library to put together a short survey (7 questions) for you to answer. Your answers will help Film Talk grow in new and exciting directions.

 


Film Talk – The 1960’s Dream – Part 3


The final part of February’s Film Talk, I looked at emotions at the train station and the homes that both Vic and Joe live in.

The next is confined to train stations. Vic (Alan Bates) walking and off his steam from the argument and his drunkenness. Whilst Joe’s (Jon Voight) is running after Ratso (Dustin Hoffman) who has just conned him. In terms of emotions they are very different. Vic’s are more internalised on screen, he is very still and tired. Whilst Joe’s is very external which we see in a combination of reality in colour and his desire in black and white, along with a flashback, a lot of emotion is on the screen. (Stills below)

Lastly the accommodation that Vic and Joe move into, Vic moves into two homes with Ingrid (June Ritchie), once at home and we presume in a flat at the end after looking around a shared house together Whilst Joe has reluctantly moved into Ratso’s condemned flat. (Stills below)

In both films we don’t see the much if any of the glamour of the 1960’s. Instead we have a more realistic representation of life from the early 1960’s with a couple who marry out of obligation before trying to make a go of married life post miscarriage. At the end of the 1960’s we have a young man whose dreams of being a hustler are dashed by the modern perceptions before learning what is more important in life taking the form of Ratso’s friendship.


Film Talk – The 1960’s Dream – Part 2


After showing a portion of A Kind of Loving (1962) I moved onto Midnight Cowboy (1969)that was John Schlesinger‘s last film of the decade. It was the first X rated film to win Best Picture at the Oscars, and another two, Best Director and best-adapted screenplay.

On the surface it doesn’t share the same themes of the earlier film if anything it’s a more personal piece by Schlesinger a successful homosexual director bringing these themes to the film. It follows Joe Buck (Jon Voight) a young Texan who decides to move to New York to try his luck in his own words as a Hustler, believing his authentic cowboy image is going to attract all the women. Unaware of the images true connotations. It’s not until he gets there and is befriended by Ratso Dustin Hoffman does he slowly begin to realize what is happening. The dream of success on the streets is shattered much like that of the sexual and cultural revolution of the 1960’s. I noticed that financially he’s always paying out and not earning in return for his “work”, things slowly get worse for him. Midnight Cowboy can be seen as the culmination of the 1960’s the pill has long been in use, allowing for more promiscuity and sexual freedom. We are seeing the results over in the States. I’d like to share a few scenes from both films back to back to show the similarities between them.

The first is the Father son chat about the future – A Kind of Loving, and Joe properly meeting Ratso – Midnight Cowboy. (Stills below)

Both Vic and Joe have ideas of what their dreams are, Vic is not so sure about how he is to achieve them, even when his dad has allowed him the freedom to pursue them. Where as Joe is more optimistic

The second we find our characters on coaches; Vic and Ingrid (June Ritchie) on the Coach – A Kind of Loving and Joe on the Coach to New York – Midnight Cowboy (Stills below)

All are starting out on new directions, the honey moon couple who as we see are de-flowered twice in a few minutes, once on the coach as they take the flowers from the button holes, and sexually. Whilst Joe is going to live out his American dream.

The third we see both Vic and Joe in arguments, Again we see Mrs. Rothwell (Thora Hird), Ingrid’s Mum giving Vic her honest opinion. And Ratso telling Joe how it is regarding his Cowboy image. (stills below)

The dreamers are being attacked.

The final two comparisons I will look at emotions at the train station and the homes that both Vic and Joe live in, which will be in the final part 3

 


Film Talk – The 1960’s Dream – Part 1


The second in my ongoing series if Film Talks I’m running at the Rothley Community Library. I decided to discuss two films this time A Kind of Loving (1962) and Midnight Cowboy (1969) both directed by John Schlesinger. Below are the notes from the night.

Tonight I’ll be taking a look at one of last months recommendations – A Kind of Loving (1962), which I noticed was directed by John Schlesinger who went onto make Midnight Cowboy (1969). I’ll start by sharing what makes a Kitchen sink drama or has otherwise been known as a British New Wave or Social Realism. Before moving onto look at A Kind of Loving and drawing comparisons with Midnight Cowboy.

So what is a Kitchen Sink Drama? I think you have to look at Britain socially first, in order to inform these films. I turned to The Social Structure of Modern Britain – E.A. Johns (1965); which is dated by today’s standards, but nonetheless allowed me to see how society was perceived at the time of writing. I first focused on the family,

…the view currently held by many eminent writers is that the family has been stripped of the functions which are essential to its cohesion, and that parents have abnegated their responsibilities in favour of the government-run organs of the Welfare state.

Pg. 25

These essential functions of the family are :

  • Provision of a home
  • Production and rearing of children
  • Stable satisfaction of sex need

R.M. MacIver – Macmillan 1957

Johns continued on the family by quoting W.J.H Sprott who argued that

“…The family, under Western cultural conditions has shrunk functionally” and that the social services are basically “anti-family” in that they cater almost exclusively for the individual rather than the family as a whole. This view is supported up to a point by M.Penelope Hall when she quotes the article on Social Policy and the Family…This document remarks that the family has until recently, been given only a minor place in social policy, “and over-all effect has been to lower status of the family in the national life”. Day nurseries and school meals, for example encourage a mother to go to work, but do not encourage her to create a home for her children

Pg.25-6

There’s an improvement in opportunities for young mothers wanting to be independent, which would have a knock on effect. Whilst also looking at increased leisure time available in modern Britain.

“…the increasing adoption of the 5-day working week and introduction of labour-saving devices in the home both mean that families have more leisure time. The characteristically democratic structure of most modern families mean that husbands and wives spend more of this time together.

Pg. 27

I also looked at the position of women in the 60’s, first looking at the jobs they have

Married women stats

25-34 years – 2/3 are employed

35-44 years – ¾ are employed

45-54 – 2/3 are employed.

Types of work include

  • distribution – insurance – banking – catering – laundries (industry jobs)
  • Hairdressing – domestic service – nursing (tertiary jobs)
  • Clerks – typists – shop assistance (“white-blouse brigade”)

These statistics only account for married women in employment. What about when the married couple moves away from the family home into the newly built housing estates?

Another factor…is that when families make the sudden transition from an old-established neighbourhood with a strong social life to a virgin housing estate, they may experience a good deal of loneliness, at least initially. The wives, in particular. may miss the gossip and chatter of the streets, and see a substitute in the companionship of the office or factory

Pg. 37

Lastly looking at marriage and divorce, which was made more accessible, however divorce was only granted under certain conditions. This passage still carries some weight today regarding the failure of marriages.

I think the most significant element, however, is the egalitarianism which characterizes the relationship between married partners today, by contrast with the patriarchal authoritarianism which was accepted as the normal pattern in the nineteenth century…The marriage a girl enters today has far more stresses than her grandmother’s. A partnership needs much more forbearance than the situation which the wife just used to accept the idea of doing what she was told.

Pg. 46

It does however acknowledge that number of younger couples getting married, and why. The most obvious is the reason why our main characters Vic and Ingrid in A Kind of Loving.

In 1960, nearly 62,000 extra-maritally conceived children were born to women married for less than 8 months (usually 5 or 6). Translated into proportion of all marriages this means that one in five brides was pregnant, and it is well established that the shot-gun marriage is more likely to break down.

Pg. 47

Johns doesn’t mention the introduction pill was made available with slowly increased access to it.

At first it was only prescribed to married women – most older women who had already had children and wanted no more…In the past most women had to married at an early age, being expected to give up their job and become a full-time housewife and mother wile their husband went out to work. If a woman wanted to follow a career she had to give up thoughts of marriage. Now, married could, if they chose, plan a career, and rigid gender based division of roles began to change. It was the beginning of both a social and sexual revolution, and there was much talk of the ‘permissive society’ and ‘free love’

Life in the 1960s – Mike Brown Pg. 9

So we have some social context around the Kitchen Sink Drama we know that they are focused on working class issues. If you’ve ever seen one you’ll notice they are mostly in Northern locations complete with the rich accents. They are devoid of special effects, the gloss that you get over in Hollywood or Europe lets take a closer look at the key directors of the movement. The subjects they covered were.

Now lets take a quick look at the key directors of the movement.

Tony Richardson who made Look Back in Anger (1959) mentioned during our discussion last month, it starred Richard Burton as a middle class student with grudges towards the working class.

Lindsay Anderson gave us This Sporting Life (1963) starring Richard Harris about an angry young rugby player who resists the fame and fortune that is coming his away.

Karel Reisz made possibly one of the more popular titles Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) with Albert Finney about a factory worker who gets a married woman pregnant.

Then we have John Schlesinger who began his career as an actor in his early twenties before making his directorial debut with a 30-minute documentary about Waterloo station – Terminus. A year later he made his feature film debut with A Kind of Loving, which saw him work with producer Joseph Janni for the first of 6 films together. It’s also the first starring role for Alan Bates.

The film follows a young man Vic (Alan Bates) who falls for Ingrid (June Ritchie), which starts off like a school romance, the passing of notes, the boys fighting, and the social dances. That’s all until Ingrid falls pregnant after they both loose their virginity. This is when the dream of a carefree romance starts to fall away opening them up to married life. In the first few weeks of marriage they are living at her home with her mother played by Thora Hird. Who makes life difficult for them under her roof. It’s her way or the highway, and they can’t really afford to leave just yet. The classic mother-in-law type brings reality crashing down for them. She’s hardly in the film but makes a strong impression on Vic who until recently was free to come and go as he pleased, now assuming the role of the husband. I’d like to show you the portion of the film (stills below) when the school romance fades away as they become adults.

In part two coming I draw comparisons with John Schlesinger’s last film of the decade – Midnight Cowboy.


Midnight Cowboy (1969)


Midnight Cowboy (1969)I’ve known about this classic film since my conversation with Professor Neil Campbell during my final year at art school, that marked a real turn in the western genre. I never gave wanting to see this film, know that it placed a cowboy in modern-day New York. Also known as the first X-rated film to win the best Picture Oscar. One that is far different in tone and style than any of the past winners to the point of film making. Midnight Cowboy (1969) is that film.

I knew the basic outline of the film a cowboy moves up north to New York, short on cash, taking on what he only knows how – prostitution. A desperate act of a man, who should have been able to offer so much more. Not the most appealing of films on the face of it.

It’s the face of Jon Voight whose innocence to the path ahead of him is perfect. A Texan born and bred we see decides to leave all he knows for a better life thousands of miles away in New York. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Until through the first of many visceral montages we learn more of his past, his decisions and the life he has chosen to leave behind. It’s all quite melancholic, and modern, a young man coming from a broken family, brought up by his grandmother who cared little more than his mother did before her. We have a wide-eyed and bushy tail young man ready to explore the big bad world. Fascinated by all that the open road had to offer him, as it passes by on the open road courtesy of a coach. He meets all sorts of people, whilst we learn more of him as he listens to his only real companion, a radio that changes as he moves through the states.

On his arrival in the big city, the big man knows what he wants, sex and plenty of it. A task that back home seemed so much easier to achieve, until he meets the women that are hard-nosed independent women who are far wiser to the advances of a country man. On getting his first potential customer he goes about the transaction all wrong. A learning curve that he is just starting to go on and only begins to understand at the end of the film.

It’s not until he meets ratty looking Ratso (Dustin Hoffman) that the possibility of the cowboy reaching his dream. All this is to fall through into another flashback, a path of religion that he doesn’t want to engage with. Ratso or Ricco is not just a passing character in Joe Buck’s (Voight) time in New York. He becomes his only friend who helps and reveals to him the truths of life that he has been unaware of. The innocent cowboy is not ready just yet to accept this.

The macho image of the Cowboy, as personified by John Wayne over the last 30 years of film, has been adopted by the gay community, thus attracting the wrong kind of clientelle. Something that he had not anticipated. He perseveres and carries on, in hoping to be a prostitute, taking on different angles, unaware of to how to really treat women in this part of the country.

It’s after the two friends who have lived in a condemned building are invited to an arty party where Buck’s luck changes, surrounded by people who accepted him as someone who was different, a larger than life figure who was confident enough to be him self in terms of self-expression. The height of the art world culture, can be found within this psychedelic sequence that sees them almost worshiped and adored. Buck finally has a client who falls for his country charm.

Whilst all through this we see the decline of Ratso who we see having temperatures into the loss use of his legs. It’s a dramatic change in tone for the film, from self-preservation and finding money, Buck changes his priorities to that of his very ill friend, a figure in his life who had faith in him wanting him to succeed after first taking advantage. Everything he has achieved would not be possible were it not due to Ratso’s friendship, all else falls away to save this man.

It’s a shock to the genre, a massive wake up call that taste have changed in the audience who first grew up with cowboys and Indians. Wanting sex and violence more than the simplistic tales of the wild west. We have a wide-eyed figure who still believes in that way of life, and its language. He admits he wasn’t a cowboy, more a studd, waking up slowly to the modern world, growing up into manhood and the present day. At it’s time of release Midnight Cowboy was an innovative film, shaking up the genre into something new, to the form it is in today. An awareness of the passage of time and tastes. Two opposites meet, the optimistic and pessimistic in life collide, with all their differences which is the heart of the film. For me it’s the montages that distort the passage of time, to create a possible direction of the film, as if parts of the film were discarded and recycled into a new form for the film. It’s a film not to be missed in short.