Yes, the director and screenwriter are dead, but where are commentaries from Voight and Hoffman? And, if they were reluctant, or too expensive to secure, where is the cinematographer, or a film historian to put much of the film in context, historically, if not artistically? The second disk has a photo gallery, and three well made and informative documentaries on the film: After Midnight: Reflecting On The Classic 35 Years Later; Controversy And Acclaim; and a featurette called Celebrating Schlesinger. In truth, although this DVD was put out in 2004, before the Blu-ray disks came out, there still was no real reason to not cram all this stuff onto one DVD. They didn’t purely for marketing reasons, to call the two-disk version a ‘Collector’s Edition.’
Despite many odes written on this film as being influential on films that came later, I could see far more derivation (in a weak sense) from a film that came out just a year before, John Cassavetes’ 1968 film Faces, which did not look at seedy Manhattan’s sexual mores, as much as suburbia’s. There were many similar scenes, personal and public, but Cassavetes’ characters were deeper, their dilemmas a bit less contrived, and, as good as the acting in this film was, Cassavetes’ actors put on a realistic acting clinic. Cassavetes lets conversations drone on, not to show the droning, but the pathos of those unaware that they are droning, to and at each other. Schlesinger’s characters, on the other hand, simply complain and shoot off wisecracks. Yes, their shallowness has a genuine quality (at least because of the acting), but nothing the actors could do could add depth to the essentially hollow characterizations on paper. And this is why, despite its Oscar and decades of praise, Midnight Cowboy is a severely overrated film. The good news, however, is that its overrating is so high that, even back on earth, it’s still a good film, albeit one whose primary virtue is historic rather than artistic. All in all, not that bad for any hustler.