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Midnight Cowboy (1969)

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(Laserdisc)

This information is for the Laserdisc release, not a DVD release.

NOTE: This commentary is only available on the Criterion Collection laserdisc. A different commentary is available on the February 2006 DVD release.

Commentaries on this disc:

Commentary 1: Director John Schlesinger and producer Jerome Hellman Rating: no votes yetLogin to vote or review
Reviewed by Gavin Millarrrrrrrrrr on February 24th, 2008:Find all reviews by Gavin Millarrrrrrrrrr
This is a slightly odd commentary in that the participants were recorded separately, but with Hellman's obviously done after (or even while) listening to Schlesinger's as he occasionally corrects a minor error (usually regarding a filming location) by the director!
The two men have different perspectives on the film, Schlesinger making his first film in the US has vivid memories of filming in New York, especially shooting on the day Robert Kennedy's funeral took place nearby, along with his grim fascination with 42nd Street. By contrast, Hellman is more sombre and reflective, describing how the film became the focus of his life after his wife left him while he was setting up the project.
Between them they cover pretty much everything: the circuitous route to the casting of Voight, how Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin'" became an essential part of the film, the controversy surrounding the X' rating, plus smaller details like how they managed to stop Hoffman blinking during the final scenes.
Schlesinger injects some humour when recalling his blunt and very rude response to Voight's demands to know what his motivation was in a particular scene, and he also admits to having had no experience of smoking dope before starting the film, a situation he soon rectified so that his experiences subsequently informed the filming of the party scene later in the film!
But his big revelation is that the scene of Hoffman's confrontation with the cabbie was not, as generally believed, ad-libbed but deliberately staged. A real testament to Hoffman's acting talent, something reiterated by Hellman who describes watching the shooting of scenes between Hoffman and Voight as the best time he ever spent on a film set.
Overall this is a solid, workmanlike track that you feel would have benefited if the two participants had been recorded together, and if it's not quite out of the top drawer of commentaries it's still a valuable record of an important and still well-regarded film.