1934. Young adults Bonnie Parker, a waitress, and Clyde Barrow, a criminal just released from prison, are immediately attracted to what the other represents for their life when they meet by chance in West Dallas, Texas. Bonnie is fascinated with Clyde’s criminal past, and his matter-of-factness and bravado in talking about it. Clyde sees in Bonnie someone sympatico to his goals in life. Although attracted to each other physically, a sexual relationship between the two has a few obstacles to happen. Regardless, they decide to join forces to embark on a life of crime, holding up whatever establishments, primarily banks, to make money and to have fun.
They don’t plan on hurting anyone physically or killing anyone despite wielding loaded guns. They amass a small gang of willing accomplices, including C.W. Moss, a mechanic to fix whatever cars they steal which is important especially for their getaways, and Buck Barrow, one of Clyde’s older brothers.
Producer Warren Beatty requested that the sound of gunshots in the movie should be much louder than the rest of the soundtrack. He was greatly influenced by Shane (1953) in this regard. However, at a screening in London he noticed that the gunfire sounds were much softer than intended. He went to the projection booth, where the projectionist told he that he had “helped” the film by adjusting the gunfire sounds. The projectionist said that he had not come across a film as poorly mixed since “Shane”.
A masterpiece that dares to be excessive!
‘Bonnie and Clyde’ is not a film about two real people famous for so many bank robberies and murders across the big country… It shows a new kind of fury in which people could be harm by weapons… The film, however, manages to carry the impression that these two youngsters took great pleasure in robbing banks and stores… It also suggests that it was very easy for them to fool the law—as certainly occurred in real life… Though merited punishment caught up with them, audiences laughed at their remarkable deeds and wanted them to get away…
In ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ Penn created an emotional state, an image of the 1930s filtered through his 1960s sensibility… The sense of this period reflects Penn’s vision of how the 1930s Depression-era truly was, and for all the crazy style and banjo score, this vision is greatly private…
What is also personal about ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and constitutes its incomparable quality, is its unusual mixture of humor and fear, its poetry of violation of the law as something that is gaiety and playfulness…
‘Bonnie and Clyde’ is both true and abstract… It is a gangster movie and a comedy-romance… It is an amusing film that turns bloody, a love affair that ends with tragedy…
A modification between pleasure and catastrophic events is important to the essential aim of the film… In their second bank robbery, a daring and joyful action goes morosely embittered when Clyde is forced to kill an executive in the bank, and real blood pours out from his body…
Bonnie and Clyde take self-gratification posing for photographs with their prisoners… But when surrounded by detectives in a motel, they turn into vindictive bandits struggling for their lives… C. W. Moss, specially, brings to mind Baby Face Nelson, when he murders policemen with a blazing machine gun…
One of the stimulating moments in the film happens when Clyde chases Bonnie through a yellow corn field, while a cloud transverses the sun and slowly shadows the landscape… Here the characteristic quality of the Texas countryside and the vague aspect of the story are beautifully communicated……
Penn’s masterpiece nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, won two Oscars, one for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and another for Best Cinematography…
The movie that made it okay to sympathize with murderers…
Author: filmbuff-36 from Houston, TX
30 October 2001
First of all, let me say that I’m appalled by the real life Bonnie and Clyde. They were two psychopathic thrill killers from Dallas who had a special hatred for law enforcement officers.
I must admit that I do feel sorry for the way they were killed, but like the old axiom goes, “If you live by the sword, you die by the sword.”
That said, the movie “Bonnie and Clyde” was a groundbreaking film. It was the first time that we the audience were allowed inside the killers minds, and could see what made them tick. This is perhaps the first film that takes a somewhat objective look at crime; we the audience don’t have “FBI Seal of Approval” morality shoved down our throats, but we still can tell by the actions of the characters that they are evil, whether they know it or not.
The story is of two Texas young adults who, bored with their lives and the prospects of going nowhere in the world, decide to live out their dreams of stardom by going on a crime spree. They fancy themselves a sort of “Romeo and Juliet” couple, and think of their robberies as harmless fun. They start out small by knocking over grocery stores and gas stations, but soon graduate to banks when they need more money to accommodate their lifestyle. Soon they have a simple minded gas clerk named C.W. and Clyde’s brother and wife in the gang, and the duo goes down into history.
Then the fun and games are over. With law enforcement officials now looking for Bonnie and Clyde, they become targets of bounty hunters, unethical cops and other greedy persons who wish to make a name for themselves, and they lose a part of their childish innocence as the escalation of their crimes makes them become more and more violent. When death finally comes for Bonnie and Clyde, it comes with a vengeance.
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway have never been better. Beatty, who plays Clyde Barrow as an impotent, ne’er do well country boy who seems to be sowing his wild oats, is in top form. He makes Clyde likable, with a goofy smile perpetually pasted on his face, even when sticking up a bank with two guns in his hands. Dunaway is the ultimate femme fatale as Bonnie Parker, a sweet natured Southern belle who likes the feel of a .38 in her hands as she politely asks for all the money. It’s absurd, it’s unrealistic, but hey, it’s Hollywood. And the film works.
But most importantly, Bonnie and Clyde are in love. It’s a kind of love that only few films afterward have been able to equal. There is a genuine feeling of giddy romance between the two no matter what the scene, be it a bank robbery or family get-together away from the reaches of society.
Arthur Penn was obviously a man on a mission when he directed this film. You could sense with every frame that he knew of the importance of this movie; a cinematic masterpiece that dares to make its audience evoke pathos for what would have been banned just a few years earlier.
The finale is still to this day a triumph of audience manipulation. The two bandits, finally captured and unable to escape, are dealt with in a fashion that will haunt you days after viewing. It’s sad, it’s disgusting, but it brings closure to the lives of two individuals whose works and existence could not be tolerated by the powers that be.
The movie “Bonnie and Clyde” inspired a generation of film makers to look at cinema in a different light. Actions movies were allowed to be funny from this point; funny movies could get away with violence. On the negative side, however, the film changed the morals of Hollywood by allowing murder to be dealt with in such a nonchalant fashion.
Sure, Claude is obviously shaken up after his first kill, as are Bonnie and C.W., but from that point on violence against law officials is no longer a problem. The police in this film are rather like the way gangsters used to be portrayed; a collection of stupid, soulless individuals who only want to ruin Bonnie and Clyde’s fun.
In the end, this in an excellent film about Depression era gangsters. Most ironically, however, is that it seems dedicated to the two real life robbers who don’t deserve such an honor of having a film legacy created in their names.
10 stars. Innovative, fresh, and hey, it helped pave the way for “Dillinger”, my favorite movie in the robber-gangster genre.
“We Rob Banks.”
Author: Michael Coy (firstname.lastname@example.org) from London, England
10 January 2001
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Boy meets girl, boy takes girl on robbery spree, cops chase boy and girl. This innovative film transformed Hollywood’s approach to the crime genre and ushered the nouvelle vague into America’s mainstream.
The real-life Bonnie and Clyde ranged the rural Texas-Oklahoma-Missouri emptiness in the early 1930’s, holding up village banks. A product of the Depression, these amateurish outlaws attracted media attention because they brought drama to a bleak, joyless world. They were freewheelers who turned the tables on the banks, notorious but somehow admirable villains. The Robin Hood theme is quietly insisted upon throughout the film. Banks foreclose on poor farmers, or suddenly fail, wiping out ordinary folks’ savings. Out of this chaos emerge these youngsters, scourging the rich and living for the moment, riding their luck for as long as it lasts, “uncertain as times are”.
Mythology is the stuff that Bonnie and Clyde are made of. The film deals admirably with both reality and myth. A farmer touches Clyde reverently, as he might touch a sacred relic. On the other hand, Old Man Moss is disappointed by the ordinariness of the dynamic duo – “they ain’t nothin’ but a coupla kids!” We see the clumsy, ragged robberies and the burgeoning fame. Our lovable rogues may be violent thugs, but they favour the little guy. During a robbery in progress, a farmer is permitted to keep his money. The authorities are portrayed as hapless oafs, as is customary in ‘Robin Hood’ movies, but here it bears an underlying significance – America’s institutions have failed the citizens. People can’t repose trust in the police. (The film was made at the depths of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights disturbances.)
One of the striking features of the film, and one which attracted criticism on its release, is the linking of violence with comedy. This was a period when violence was being portrayed graphically onscreen, and what is new in this film is that the firing of the gun and the bullet hitting the victim are both contained in the same camera shot, as opposed to the traditional euphemism of the cut away from the gun. We never forget that, for all their hedonistic levity, our two leads are “staring square into the face of death”. The final shoot-up is a shocking and fascinating danse macabre. “There’s nothing quite like the kinetics of violence,” says director Arthur Penn. He uses crazily juxtaposed running-speeds to compound the horror of the madly-flailing corpses, an effect which he calls “both spastic and balletic”.
And then, of course, there is sex. The real Clyde Barrow maintained a homosexual liaison with C.W. Moss, and originally the writers Benton and Newman had wanted the menage-a-trois with Bonnie to be a part of the film. Warren Beatty objected to playing a bisexual, and on reflection the Beatty-Penn-Benton-Newman production team dispensed with the sexual sophistication, reasoning that it would complicate the story unnecessarily and alienate cinema audiences. The only remaining vestiges are Clyde’s difficulty making love to Bonnie, and some laddish cuddles during the card game in the hideout. The meeting of Bonnie and Clyde at the start is filled with playful sexual imagery. A bored, trapped Bonnie pummels the slats of her bedframe, pouting with sexual frustration. Clyde bursts into this ‘prison’ and seduces her with his aura of danger and excitement. Check out the phallic symbols – toothpick, gun and coke bottle.
The music is wonderful in itself, and wonderfully appropriate. Flatt and Scruggs’ “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” evokes place and time perfectly, and provides a rousing accompaniment to the car chases. Director Penn has the boldness to dispense with incidental music and, where dramatic effect requires it, to rely on ambient sound such as eerily-rustling grass.
At the writing stage, Benton and Newman were in love with the French New Wave and wanted this project to enshrine the nouvelle vague principles. Strenuous but abortive attempts were made to recruit first Truffaut and then Godard, but Beatty finally convinced the writers that outer trappings such as European directors were unnecessary, because the script held all the New Wave ingredients.
Truffaut’s benign influence pervades the final version, especially the section where Bonnie reads her ballad aloud. We move visually through three scenes as Bonnie’s voice proclaims the couple’s testament, a cinematic gem suggested by Truffaut. Throughout the action, the jump-cut style of editing captures perfectly the spareness which is the essence of New Wave. Two sheets of newspaper are scattered on the swirling wind, an image which underscores the feckless, empty existence of the protagonists. Benton may not have got his francophone director, but in this fresh treatment of classic American subject matter he succeeded in making his “specifically European film”.
“We couldn’t have made it on the back lot,” says Beatty, and he is right. The rural Texas locations are terrific, their open spaces hinting at both freedom and emptiness. Bonnie and Clyde are at their best when on the move, and they grow fractious whenever cooped up. The countryside is almost a participant in the story, as when the distraught Bonnie, filled with thoughts of death and separation, absconds through the field of withered corn, or the Eugene-Thelma episode closes with a dustcloud ‘wiping’ the action. The night-to-day sequence around the two cars after Buck’s misfortune is beautifully done.
Beatty produced the film as well as starring in it. He held daily pre-shoot discussion sessions for the cast, an admirable attempt to enrich the creative process. By the evidence of this fresh, entertaining and superbly-constructed film, his inclusive instincts triumphantly augmented a winning formula.
1967’s best movie.
Author: Charles Saint-Pierre from Montreal, Canada
10 September 1999
“Bonnie and Clyde” is, what I would consider to be, the movie that let loose violence in cinema. Artur Penn’s based on a true story classic of violence, sexuality, and crime, was excellent thirty-two years ago when it first came out, is excellent today, and will be excellent for decades to come. Plus, it is one of those rare movies that are at the same time a landmark for cinema history as well as a true classic for more than just its landmark aspect. This movie earned five nominations only for acting and won best supporting-actress for Estelle Parsons.
One morning, as she wakes up, Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) notices that a man is trying to subtly break into her car. She quickly dresses up and runs down. The man looks up at her embarrassed and we are than revealed Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty). The two of them go for a walk down the road but when Clyde tells Bonnie that he is a robber, she doesn’t believe him. So, he decides to prove to her that he isn’t lying and robs a small grocery shop right away. As soon as he exits the store, he shows Bonnie the money and they escape in a car that they steal. And so begins an adventure they will never forget.
Along their way, they pick up a young boy who works at a gas station who is called C.W. (Michael J. Pollard).
They begin doing more and more robberies until Clyde is finally forced to kill someone. Later on in their trip, Clyde’s brother (Gene Hackman) and his wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons) catch up with Clyde, C.W., and Bonnie and they continue committing crimes such as robberies and even sometimes murders but usually in cases of self-defense.
“Bonnie and Clyde” is beautifully acted and expertly directed. After “Bonnie and Clyde”, Arthur Penn directed some other good movies such as “Little big man” but as good as they were all, none ever equalled “Bonnie and Clyde”. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should put it first on your “Next movies to watch” list.