Midnight Cowboy (1969)
The story of Texan would-be gigolo Joe Buck and his encounter with New York cynisism is a rich and gloomy piece about the stern and disillusioned reality of modern urban life, which gradually eats away our protagonist's accommodating southern attitude. John Schlesinger's direction is borderline groundbreaking as he follows Jon Voight around New York, depicting his struggles and encounters often through wordless and largely plotless segments filled with razor-sharp cuts and psychedelic colours and music. His distinctive style tells as much about the cultural times in which the film was created as the story does, and although the film is utterly pessimistic on behalf of urbanization and people's ability to handle their own sexuality, there's a certain kick to this pessimism; a certain kinky vibe to the downfall. It's as if novelist James Leo Herlihy wanted Joe Buck and his crippled pal Ratso to go down and out, even implying that they wanted it themselves. Their alternating narcissism and self-abasement is not something inherent, claims Herlihy, it's something they've caught on or been infected by, and it won't go away until they cleanse themselves. Or perhaps until they acknowledge their attraction towards each other, although Schlesinger doesn't quite want to go there. With all the possible readings it invites, Midnight Cowboy has stood the test of time remarkably well. And Voight and Hoffman both revel in career-defining roles.