Editing Strategies Of Midnight Cowboy Film Studies Essay

836 words (3 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 Film Studies Reference this

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John Schlesinger the director of Midnight Cowboy uses the use of unconventional editing strategies to tell the story about the friendship and relationship of “wanna-be” hustler Joe Buck and schemer Ratso Rizzo. Schlesinger breaks the many rules of continuity by using nondiegetic inserts, intercutting subjective flashbacks with “real world” footage, mixing of color and black and white footage, and the mixing of footage shot by a movie camera and “real” footage. The function of discontinuity editing in the movie allows Schlesinger to “construct intricate patterns of images calculated to stimulate the viewer’s senses, emotions, and thinking” (Bordwell, 262). The stimulation that the viewers go through helps them identify the friendship, identity, and desire for intimacy of the characters in the movie.

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Nondiegetic inserts involve cutting away from the scene to a metaphorical or symbolic shot that is not part of the space and time of the narrative” (Bordwell, 259). Schlesinger’s use of nondiegetic inserts are shown in the film as Joe Buck’s flashbacks which are triggered by different real world situations. The flashbacks are shown in fractured clips that tell little information to the viewer which makes it difficult for the viewer to put information together. Joe’s lonely youth is reflected in many series of fragmented flashbacks about his past during his trip from Texas to New York City. Once on the bus and the journey east has begun the voice of Joe’s grandmother is heard and scenes are shown revealing that she often cared for him as a young Joe and even had a couple intimate moments with the young boy. The brief flashbacks provide insight into Joe Buck’s background; he was raised by women throughout his life because no male figure other than his grandmothers many boyfriends are apparent which may have some contributing factor to his homosexual leanings in the film. A subjective moment on Joe’s bus is when it passes a water tower showing for the first time a flashback that contains Annie. The water tower shows that it says “Crazy Annie Loves Joe Buck” and at the same time Annie’s voice is heard saying “do you love me” and “you’re the only one”.

When Joe arrives in New York and after failing to receive any money in his first time as a hustler he meets up with Ratso who says that he has someone who can help him out in his pursuit in being a great hustler in New York. Once at the apartment Joe is being talk to by O’Daniel thinking that he is talking to him about being him becoming a hustler and then is forced to kneel down and pray next to a Jesus which triggers another flashback and the scene is intercut with flashbacks of Joe remembering his boyhood experience of being baptized in a river with his grandmother. When leaving the apartment he flees the scene and runs through New York with images of real footage of the city and also vengeful images of his pursuit and attack of Ratso. Joe follows Ratso throughout the subway cars and trains but never seems to catch up to him. When running around the subway Schlesinger uses both color and black and white film stock to create an unstable sequence of scenes as if Joe is frantically remembering and thinking of many things throughout the scene. Another flashback of Joe and Annie occurs when they are pulled out of the car by a group of males that seem to know Joe and a violent series of events seem to happen and lead to the rape of both Annie and Joe.

Another way that Schlesinger breaks the rules of continuity is by mixing footage from the film with “real” footage shot by a camera. This type of discontinuity is shown at the Warhol party that Joe Buck and Ratso attend one night in New York. At the party they use of a handheld camera is used to film what different people at the party are thinking about the world and life. The images are mixed in with film footage of the psychedelic party and also the use of sexuality in the “real” footage allows Joe Buck to question his sexuality to himself and really think of what he desires the most in his life at the moment.

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Throughout the film Midnight Cowboy by John Schlesinger the use of nondiegetic inserts, intercutting subjective flashbacks with “real world” footage, mixing of color and black and white footage, and the mixing of footage shot by a movie camera and “real” footage allow the story to be told in unconventional way which was new for its time. The nondiegetic inserts and “real” footage which are shown in the subjective flashbacks allow the viewer to learn more information about the character but also allows a character like Joe Buck to realize how things that happened in his past have affected him in a certain way and how it plays a role in his desires of friendship and intimacy.

John Schlesinger the director of Midnight Cowboy uses the use of unconventional editing strategies to tell the story about the friendship and relationship of “wanna-be” hustler Joe Buck and schemer Ratso Rizzo. Schlesinger breaks the many rules of continuity by using nondiegetic inserts, intercutting subjective flashbacks with “real world” footage, mixing of color and black and white footage, and the mixing of footage shot by a movie camera and “real” footage. The function of discontinuity editing in the movie allows Schlesinger to “construct intricate patterns of images calculated to stimulate the viewer’s senses, emotions, and thinking” (Bordwell, 262). The stimulation that the viewers go through helps them identify the friendship, identity, and desire for intimacy of the characters in the movie.

Nondiegetic inserts involve cutting away from the scene to a metaphorical or symbolic shot that is not part of the space and time of the narrative” (Bordwell, 259). Schlesinger’s use of nondiegetic inserts are shown in the film as Joe Buck’s flashbacks which are triggered by different real world situations. The flashbacks are shown in fractured clips that tell little information to the viewer which makes it difficult for the viewer to put information together. Joe’s lonely youth is reflected in many series of fragmented flashbacks about his past during his trip from Texas to New York City. Once on the bus and the journey east has begun the voice of Joe’s grandmother is heard and scenes are shown revealing that she often cared for him as a young Joe and even had a couple intimate moments with the young boy. The brief flashbacks provide insight into Joe Buck’s background; he was raised by women throughout his life because no male figure other than his grandmothers many boyfriends are apparent which may have some contributing factor to his homosexual leanings in the film. A subjective moment on Joe’s bus is when it passes a water tower showing for the first time a flashback that contains Annie. The water tower shows that it says “Crazy Annie Loves Joe Buck” and at the same time Annie’s voice is heard saying “do you love me” and “you’re the only one”.

When Joe arrives in New York and after failing to receive any money in his first time as a hustler he meets up with Ratso who says that he has someone who can help him out in his pursuit in being a great hustler in New York. Once at the apartment Joe is being talk to by O’Daniel thinking that he is talking to him about being him becoming a hustler and then is forced to kneel down and pray next to a Jesus which triggers another flashback and the scene is intercut with flashbacks of Joe remembering his boyhood experience of being baptized in a river with his grandmother. When leaving the apartment he flees the scene and runs through New York with images of real footage of the city and also vengeful images of his pursuit and attack of Ratso. Joe follows Ratso throughout the subway cars and trains but never seems to catch up to him. When running around the subway Schlesinger uses both color and black and white film stock to create an unstable sequence of scenes as if Joe is frantically remembering and thinking of many things throughout the scene. Another flashback of Joe and Annie occurs when they are pulled out of the car by a group of males that seem to know Joe and a violent series of events seem to happen and lead to the rape of both Annie and Joe.

Another way that Schlesinger breaks the rules of continuity is by mixing footage from the film with “real” footage shot by a camera. This type of discontinuity is shown at the Warhol party that Joe Buck and Ratso attend one night in New York. At the party they use of a handheld camera is used to film what different people at the party are thinking about the world and life. The images are mixed in with film footage of the psychedelic party and also the use of sexuality in the “real” footage allows Joe Buck to question his sexuality to himself and really think of what he desires the most in his life at the moment.

Throughout the film Midnight Cowboy by John Schlesinger the use of nondiegetic inserts, intercutting subjective flashbacks with “real world” footage, mixing of color and black and white footage, and the mixing of footage shot by a movie camera and “real” footage allow the story to be told in unconventional way which was new for its time. The nondiegetic inserts and “real” footage which are shown in the subjective flashbacks allow the viewer to learn more information about the character but also allows a character like Joe Buck to realize how things that happened in his past have affected him in a certain way and how it plays a role in his desires of friendship and intimacy.

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