Sunday, April 15, 2012

#608. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Directed By: Arthur Penn

Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard

Tag line: "They're young... they're in love... and they kill people"

Trivia:  Thousand of berets were sold worldwide after Faye Dunaway wore them in this film

It's a lazy Texas afternoon, and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) is in her bedroom, putting on her makeup. Bored and frustrated, she strolls over to the window, peering out just in time to catch Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) in the process of stealing her mother’s car. 

Hey boy”, Bonnie yells down, “what are you doing with my mama’s car?” Clyde turns and looks up at her. Their eyes lock, and he smiles. “Wait there”, Bonnie shouts, unable to contain her excitement, and rushes down the stairs.  

From that moment on, Bonnie and Clyde would be inseparable. 

In an America ravaged by the Depression, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow pulled off a series of daring bank robberies on their way to becoming two of the most notorious outlaws in American history. With the help of Clyde’s boisterous brother Buck (Gene Hackman), Buck’s prissy wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), and their steady getaway driver C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard), Bonnie and Clyde blazed a trail of crime across the American Southwest, leaving empty banks - and a few dead bodies - in their wake. 

With a depiction of violence that was no less than groundbreaking in 1967, Bonnie and Clyde set the standard for how killings would be shown on screen for decades to come. Never before had blood spilled quite as freely in a Hollywood film, and many were shocked by the movie’s brutality. 

Yet, despite its various shootouts and the thrill of the odd car chase, Bonnie and Clyde is, at its heart, the story of a love forged under the most severe of circumstances. Within hours of meeting each other, Clyde robs a small corner store, and Bonnie, weary of her quiet, humdrum life, is turned on by the excitement of it all. It was an unusual relationship in that sexuality rarely entered into it (Bonnie was willing, but Clyde was impotent). No, what ignited that spark in Bonnie Parker's and Clyde Barrow's tempestuous romance was robbing banks. 

All the chaos, all the bloodshed started the afternoon their eyes met, and it was Bonnie and Clyde’s destiny to go out in a blaze of glory. The final scene of Bonnie and Clyde is among the most celebrated in film history.  Meticulously edited, it ups the ante by taking the film's violence to yet another level. This scene, as well as the movie's many other cinematic innovations, would help usher in the era known as "New Hollywood", when young directors like Scorsese, Coppola, Spielberg, and, yes, Arthur Penn took Tinseltown by storm. 

But along with its cinematic achievements, the finale of Bonnie and Clyde also proved the perfect ending for its very unorthodox title characters.  When fate came knocking amidst a maelstrom of bullets, Bonnie and Clyde answered the door together.

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