Bonnie and Clyde – 1967
Director – Arthur Penn
Starring – Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons and Michael J. Pollard
Bonnie and Clyde, a movie about the home-brewed gangsters of the 1930s, was one of a few films that typified the resurgence of creativity and control enjoyed by writers and directors during the late 60’s and throughout the 70’s. Originally it was supposed to have been directed by the arthouse renowned Francois Truffaut. Having cut his teeth as a film critic turned auteur director, his influence on the film can still be felt despite the fact that he opted to drop out in order to film Fahrenheit 451.
It’s roots in the French New Wave movement of the 1960’s are given room to grow in the wide open borders of the United States. It manages to defy it’s temporal setting (the 30’s) and spoke about the state of affairs in our country during the late 1960s. The impact of Vietnam and the violence being aired on the television every night could be felt in the bloody, ruthless, and sometimes relentless chase scenes between the two lovers and the police. The counter-culture movement was represented by the two criminals themselves, while the police and the system of law represented everything from government, parents, the status quo right down to police and the system of law.
As the director and the producer, Arthur Penn and Warren Beatty made sure their rowdy, humorous, and somewhat nihilistic representation of change stayed true to it’s message. Beatty and Faye Dunaway play the titular characters, and both are luminous and full of life and vitality. Dunaway in particular really shines. The film starts out with her rolling languidly around her bed, posing, and waiting for something anything to come along and be a catalyst. It just so happens that when she looks out her bedroom window, that catalyst is preparing to steal her mother’s car. The couple instantly take to each other, but for different reasons. Bonnie see’s Clyde as a strong, exciting, virile change in her limited boring life. She is sick of watching doors close, and takes it upon herself to jump out the nearest window. It is the thrill that excites Bonnie, where as it is the attention that draws Clyde. He seems to crave notoriety, first with Bonnie, then with the rest of the city, state, and eventually the country. Not only does he seem to thrive on this type of danger and celebrity, he can’t seem to function properly without it. He is unable to perform to any degree in bed without the adulation and danger that comes from committing crimes and being noticed. This serves as a bit of hindrance to the relationship at first, but each of them become bound to the other simultaneously keeping the other afloat while dragging the other under.
Bonnie and Clyde serves as a number of firsts. From the first appearance of classic actors such as Gene Hackman, and Gene Wilder, to the first ever occurance of a gun being fired and hitting the victim on screen at the same time. The film is filled with equal parts optimism and pessimism. Made for a relatively small budget, and not expected to do very well, the studio was suprised by the enormous popularity the film opened to. It was due in part to this success, that helped the artistic and un-hindered creative expression of the film industry for the next whole decade to come. Bonnie and Clyde is the quintisential American story, from the characters it portrayed to the real life story of it’s inception and it’s success.
“Obsessed with the 60’s as the 30’s.” – Ashley