Bonnie and Clyde (1967) – Arthur Penn

As I return to the thriller category of Great Movies – 100 Years of Film, I got to settle into a film that I haven’t seen since my film classes in university. Bonnie and Clyde.

The film stars Warren Beatty as Clyde and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie in this cinematic retelling of the famous criminals that stole headlines when it happened. When the film came along, it shocked audiences with its brutality and violence.

Clyde Barrow is a small-time criminal who steals the heart of a lonely waitress, Bonnie Parker. Together the two of them lead a small gang on a crime-spree as they steal cars and rob banks.

The film, like the story, ends violently for all involved, and Penn didn’t hold back in its depiction.

The cast of the film is rounded out with Gene Hackman, Michael J. Pollard and Gene Wilder, and to this day, it plays solidly and captivates.

That being said, my exposure to it in film class didn’t do much to sell me on the film, because my prof, after screening the film once, would then, in class, take us through it scene by scene and pointed out all the things that were going on in the film. The use of the match stick and the handling of guns apparently had lots to do with sexuality, (not to mention Clyde’s own inability to perform with Bonnie, I personally think his sexuality is in question), and it’s association with violence.

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As the prof took it apart, sequence by sequence, it actually ruined my appreciation for movies in general for awhile.

Watching it now, I actually enjoyed it so much more, seeing the dynamic of the couple change when Clyde’s brother, Buck (Hackman) and his always hysterical wife, Blanche (Estelle Parson) join the gang.

There is humour, and tension in equal measure, as things progress and unfurl for the group. Bonnie lives in a but of a dream world, wanting nice things, dressing well, and wanted to be loved by a man seemingly incapable of doing so. That being said, she adapts very well to the life of violence that Clyde introduces her to.

The climax of the film is violent, brutal, bloody, and doesn’t hold anything back, which played shockingly to the audiences of the time no doubt. Seeing that violence play out, putting imagery to a headline, probably shook a number of people to the core. It made the story, the violence, and the deaths more than just a banner above the fold of the paper, it gave people a context on the loss of life, and perhaps caused them to look at events of the world anew.

Bonnie and Clyde remains a solid piece of filmmaking with great performances. And I enjoyed it so much more this time around than I did in film class.

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