Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy

Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy

USA | 2022 | 101 min. | Nancy Buirski

There never was a movie like Midnight Cowboy, and though many have tried, none have replicated what truly made it tick. This doc examines not only the film’s enormous impact but also the social, political, and cultural forces that breathed it into existence.

When Midnight Cowboy premiered in 1969, it served as confirmation of New Hollywood's ascendency. Filmed at a moment when the Studio System had crumbled, the film's critical, box office, and Oscar® success further enabled the next generation of auteur-minded directors to tackle narratives that were both socially conscious yet also intensely personal. In Desperate Souls, Dark City, documentarian Nancy Buirski explores how the many societal and creative forces—among them, the Method, '60s counterculture, the Vietnam War, and urban flight—converged to create this pivotal film and influenced its greater themes. Director John Schlesinger came to America professionally wounded by the under-performance of his previous film, Far From the Madding Crowd, yet still chose James Leo Herlihy's difficult and controversial novel for his next project, turning to the former blacklisted screenwriter Waldo Salt to adapt it. On a personal level, Schlesinger imbued his film with a pathos derived from his own experiences growing up as a bullied Jewish boy in an antisemitic England as well as his own semi-concealed homosexual identity. Containing a wealth of behind-the-scenes material, including Voight's original screen tests working off Salt's prompting, Desperate Souls, Dark City is both elegant exegesis and exquisite tribute to a great American classic.

Dan Doody

  • Director: Nancy Buirski
  • Principal Cast: Bob Balaban, Ian Buruma, Michael Childers, Brian De Palma, Adam Holender, James Hoberman, Charles Kaiser, Jennifer Salt, Lucy Sante, Brenda Vaccaro, Jon Voight, Edmund White
  • Country: USA
  • Year: 2022
  • Running Time: 101 min.
  • Producer: Nancy Buirski, Simon Kilmurry, Susan Margolin
  • Screenplay: Nancy Buirski
  • Cinematographers: Rex Miller
  • Editors: Anthony Ripoli
  • Music: Doug Bernheim
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Filmography: A Crime on the Bayou (2020), The Rape of Recy Taylor (2017), By Sidney Lumet (2015), Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq (2013) , The Loving Story (2011)
  • Language: English
  • US Distributor: Zeitgeist / Kino Lorber
  • International Sales: ICM