Monday, 11 July 2011

Best Actor 1969: Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy

Dustin Hoffman received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy.

Dustin Hoffman's Ratso is in many ways the opposite of Jon Voight's Joe Buck. Where Joe is naive to the city, Hoffman's Enrico has been there all his life. Hoffman makes this known showing that Enrico is a very experienced street dweller, it is not that he is some perfect swift street criminal, rather a very desperate individual who uses what he knows to survive. Hoffman's entire creation of Enrico is one of the amazing performances of this type. Although technically this is a very controlled performance that was made to be just a certain way, in never feels like that, instead his performance always seems utterly natural, and authentic. This is a performance where I really do not see the actor, I always saw Enrico, which is an incredible achievement with this type of performance.

Everything that Hoffman tries with this performance absolutely works which is astounding. His voice perfectly amplifies the character, well making him incredibly unique. The way he dresses, his hair, his constant sweating as well as his limp, are all brilliantly handled. They always seem completely Enrico, and every physical gesture, no matter how actory it could have been, it isn't because instead Hoffman makes it all feel completely authentic. Hoffman is able to do this because he is always one hundred percent invested with Enrico. He never for a moment lets on about anything else, he makes Enrico simply into a complex person you really feel like you could meet. It almost seems bizarre that this is possible from this risky of a performance, but every single little or big risk Hoffman takes with this performance works.

Ratso is an incredible achievement because of after all there is not too much really told about Ratso. The only thing exactly explained is that his father was a shoe shiner and died from his job. Most everything else is left to Hoffman to express which Hoffman most certainly succeeds with. His performance does a brilliant job of creating a complex layered person in Ratso. Enrico most certainly is street smart, acting with a certain hostility to some, well having a tiny bit of smoothness which he uses for his street cons such as when he cons Joe Buck out of some money. Ratso though at heart really is a very sad and lonely man. Hoffman never leaps out and states this but makes it clear in his desperate want of Joe to stay with him, Hoffman shows beneath Enrico's street persona that all he really is a man who wants some friendship.

Enrico really is not this tough man of the streets. Hoffman instead presents that deep inside Enrico is a very sensitive man. This is particularly shown in his reaction to being called Ratso which hurts him deeply inside. Hoffman makes this key I think because he does not show him as just being annoyed or angry over being called a name, but this rather deeply wounds him because it suggests that he is something below human. As I said in Voight's review this friendship is a brilliant achievement by both actors. There initial scene where Joe goes to Enrico's apartment. Joe first balks at the circumstances believing it to be some sort of con or trick that Enrico is playing on him. Hoffman final delivery of Enrico just telling Joe that he wants him to stay is brutally honest, because there is no trick or con on Enrico's mind, Hoffman instead shows that all Enrico was after was a basic human need.

As their friendship grows so does the power of Hoffman's portrayal. I said that they were almost the opposite but as many ways as they are opposite of one another they are also the same. Both have the same desperation and the same want for a better life. There is something very human of Enrico's dream of Florida, which is very moving because the whole time Hoffman portrays Enrico's thoughts of the dream as a honest simple hope of the pained man. Their friendship contains one powerful moment after another, because because how despite the harshness and the reality of their situation their is a simple beauty of their relationship. It is not always perfect one but because of that it seems more realistic and is even more effecting. Their relationship is simply unforgettable because of the simple truths about the mutual need of friendship between the two men. 

Enrico's dream seems difficult and unlikely to occur because of slow physical disintegration which Hoffman handles as well as every other physical element of Enrico. His fears and pains around his illness, are downright heartbreaking due to Hoffman's portrayal. I creates a painfully realistic portrait of a man on his end, and it made as sad as it is because Hoffman shows that Enrico was really just a man who wanted a descent life. I really can't praise this performance enough. Hoffman never once seems like he is acting in the entire performance, and creates one memorable person in Enrico. It is an outstanding achievement where despite the dirty pained exterior of Enrico Hoffman still is able to show something of beauty within the man. Hoffman just creates an outstanding portrait of an unforgettable character.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think he'll get your vote. Both Voight and Hoffman are brilliant so you cant go wrong with picking either. O'Toole, Wayne and Burton have no chance against these powerhouse performances lol

RatedRStar said...

Love him. Love the performance, got a feeling things are gonna go downhill from here for 1969 however.

Anonymous said...

He has to win, you liked Voight a lot as well, but Hoffman was just on a different level!

dinasztie said...

Yeah, he has to win. Such a heart-breaking, gutwrenching, terrific, wonderful performance. Probably Hoffman's best and my favorite Best Actor nominee ever (that includes winners, too)

Sage Slowdive said...

It's so hard to pick between them...

Grady Tripp said...

I hope Hoffman will win, as he's been your #2 three times already...

Fritz said...

He's truly outstanding - but so is Voight...

Tanvir Bashar said...

Wat wud u say r Hoffmann top 5 best performances

Louis Morgan said...

1. Midnight Cowboy
2. Tootsie
3. The Graduate
4. Straight Time
5. Straw Dogs