My knowledge of Midnight Cowboy prior to watching it began and ended with the famous “I’m walking here!” line. It seemed like a funny scene. Indeed, the movie features a handful of moments that could be labeled comedic, but make no mistake: there’s nothing funny about any of it.
In fact, not only is it not funny, it’s a deeply sad look at characters who very rarely get their stories told. As such, despite the film being half a century old, some things still surprise. Take for instance Rico Rizzo’s (Dustin Hoffman) home. The man lives in an abandoned, closed off building, and the director takes its time to show the audience how exactly living in an empty place works like. There’s crummy mattresses, a refrigerator used as a storage box, a curtain that appears to be made out of paper.
What’s left the film bouncing around in my head is its pervasive sense of loneliness. Not because it exists but because even then, 50 years ago, it was being introduced in cinema. I’ve gotten used to seeing multiple examinations of sad and lonely characters in film, but they are all product of the 21st century. This made sense to me. But to discover that humans have been carrying this burden since the beginning of time? How despairing.