A naive prostitute and his sickly friend struggle to survive on the streets of New York City.
9/10 – A true classic, winner of 3 Academy Awards and is the only X-Rated film to have won Best Picture. This isn’t pornography, for those that didn’t know, X-Rated in the 1960’s covered anything unsuitable for the younger generations (17 below), and it was only later on that the X rating was adopted by pornographers. In order to disassociate themselves from that rating, adaptations to other restrictions were brought into play. In this instance, due to the homosexual references, the act of prostitution and the general grim nature of this film, it was a no brainer to release it as an X-Rated film. After winning the awards, it was later reduced to ‘R’ and has remained so, unedited and unchanged, ever since.
Now I was not around in 1969, I have no idea what it would have been like in New York back then, but this film goes a significant way to assure you that if the wrong choices are made without the right knowledge and education, the outlook was bleak and your options were limited. Its appearance is gritty and murky, with the only fractured moments of brightness taking shape in a ‘Warhol-esque party’, making the imminent crash back to reality even more damning. It is not surprising then to realise that this film is often referred to as a ‘time capsule’ of what life was like in late 1960’s NYC. A certain feeling of disillusion is apparent, and in many ways it still exists with major cities today. A move there does not and will not immediately grant you a much better life, after which, unless you act quickly, your options are significantly reduced.
We are treated to two excellent performances; the first is Jon Voight, in his first ever major acting role, later to go on to star in Deliverance, The Champ and Runaway Train. He is a naive ‘cowboy’ intent on making New Yorks finest ladies pay for his services to provide him with a life of luxury. A dream that at least a potential option for him until he meets Dustin Hoffman, fresh after filming The Graduate, a limping, dirty, wise guy who sounds like he is about to cough up a lung the entire film. What emerges out of these two paths crossing is a disconcerting set of events unfolding before our eyes, highlighting two mens struggle to achieve their revised dreams as they become interlocked in one single aim. To explain anymore would spoil the turbulent journey you are taken on, and would devalue the revelations you experience.
The performances alone are worth watching this film, but the way that it is shot and the type of film that it is, it feels like it is years before its time. Shocking in it’s content, emotionally and mentally draining, it is a classic and one that you will not forget in a hurry.
One thing this challenge has taught me, is not to be put off by the date on the film. For a long period of time I would only decide to watch films released in the last decade or two, considering certain films to be ‘too old’. It is clear that after watching this, and a few others along the way, that I have been completely wrong to ignore them for so long. They still stand up to modern cinema now, and if you are on the fence as I was at the start of last year, this film could quite possibly be the one to change your mind.
This is on Netflix UK for a few more days, so catch it quick.