Directed by : Arthur Penn
Written by : David Newman, Robert Benton
Starring : Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman and Michael J. Pollard
Commonly thought of as the birth of the New Hollywood, Bonnie and Clyde paved the way for movies for the next two glorious and innovative decades of cinema. Conceived by its writers as an attempt to retake and remake American themed cinema from their French New Wave heroes even going so far as to offer directorial duties to Truffaut and Godard. Despite great difficulty in getting the film made, once Beatty signed on as both star and producer it was locked into the Hollywood system. Crucially Beatty brought script doctor supreme Robert Towne (Chinatown, Shampoo) and director Penn (Night Moves, Missouri Breaks) on board also.
Ostensibly a straight forward telling of the escalating escapades of the real life bank robber Clyde Barrow (Beatty) and his moll Bonnie Parker (Dunaway) and their odd entourage in Depression era 1930’s American South. It begins with Beatty ‘luring’ Bonnie away from her home and at first they just rob a few convenience stores and progress from there to robbing banks, hooking up along the way with a mechanic and simpleton, C.W. Moss (Pollard). When during another clumsy bank raid Clyde has no option but to shoot someone it becomes clear that the gangs fate is doomed, even more so when having been joined by Clyde’s brother Buck (Hackman) and his highly strung wife, the dynamic of the gang changes and tension ensues, especially between the ill met females.
In one getaway scene Bonnie gets Clyde to stop the car to remonstrate about his sister in law. There is also the small matter of Clyde being unable to consummate his relationship with Bonnie. For an actor of Beatty’s libertine reputation this seems like a brave move except when we learn that Beatty baulked at the original script idea to have a ménage a trois between the pair and Moss, hinted at in one scene where they all sleep in the same room. This might help explain more readily the couple’s ultimate betrayal by Moss’ father or maybe it was simply because “they didn’t. even get your name (Moss) in the paper, boy”!
Yes as well as violence and sex this film is also very much about fame and though set in the thirties there was a definite sixties counterculture vibe about it. Bonnie and Clyde are very concerned with their reputations and thrive on the publicity that they themselves help to create, they pose for photographs and write poems but ultimately they know they are doomed and that their demise will be their ultimate legacy and consummation. This is brilliantly illustrated in a fantastic edit at the end when in the balletic but brutal and violent ambush they glance momentarily at each other, finally getting off with each other only when they are being sent off, so to speak.
As stylised as Bonnie and Clyde undoubtedly is it is always grounded in realism and as much as it nods to time it was made it has great design, a fantastic period score and a great feel for the era interweaving social commentary on the Depression seamlessly into to the story. What do you think about this movie. Share your thoughts in comments.
MoviesCrunch Rating – 7/10