A kind of spiritual sequel to Saturday Night Fever, Urban Cowboy stars John Travolta as Bud Davis, a Texas cowboy who travels to Houston to earn enough money to buy his own ranch. While he’s there, he falls in love with Sissy, played by Debra Winger, who he meets at Gilley’s, a bar on the outskirts of the city, and the film follows the ups and downs of their romance, courtship, marriage and separation as they drift in and out of the Houston honkytonk scene. At over two hours, it’s a sprawling, languorous, panoramic film, and especially recalls Saturday Night Fever in the way that night time seems to be the natural state of things, with daylight hours reduced to a weird, half-awake interlude between dancefloor and dancefloor, which is where most of the film takes place. Even more than in Saturday Night Fever, Travolta feels like a nocturnal actor, sheepish, skittish and nerdy by day, but somehow transformed under neon, as he burrows deeper and deeper into the nightsprawl with each passing night, which is perhaps why it feels as of the full expanse of Houston can only properly be glimpsed at night as well. In fact, as far as the film is concerned, Houston only really exists as a nocturnal landscape, even as the city seems to feel glossier and synthetic with each evening that falls, as Bud’s dreams of being an actual cowboy gradually give way to a new kind of urban cowboy subculture, centred on the mechanical bull at Gilley’s. For whatever reason, mechanical bulls have become camp – the stuff of frat films and bromances – but in Urban Cowboy, they’re treated in earnest, as a genuine substitute for the rodeo culture closed off by the big city, which can admittedly feel a bit absurd in retrospect, especially since Bud and Sissy’s romance is largely contoured by the bull, culminating with the final ride-off that resolves their relationship. Still, even the bull segments don’t quite feel dated, partly because they’re often shot in a documentary spirit, as actual competitive footage, but also because they’re anchored in Winger’s performance, a much stronger foil to Travolta than Donna Pescow in Saturday Night Fever. Already a mercurial presence, Winger is positively translucent against the half-light of Gilley’s, while something about her resists the cowboy-cowgirl kitsch that the film often seems to be aiming for as well. If the mechanical bull has become a frat trope, it’s only by cordoning off the bull as male or female, but in Sissy’s hands it becomes both at the same time, emblem for a late countrypolitan style in which traditional country tropes have almost, but not quite, dissolved into their own urbane nostalgia images.