“Bonnie and Clyde” was made in 1967 by Arthur Penn. It’s an unforgettable classic that has lost none of its sheen since release. Rarely has a film been as widely influential as director Arthur Penn’s crime spree masterpiece. Single-handedly spawning the psychotic-lovers-on-the-run sub-genre and simultaneously breaking the envelope in its frank, realistic depiction of violence, Bonnie and Clyde decisively consigned all vestiges of 50’s Hollywood to the scrapheap of the 60s and signaled the start of the most creative, daring and satisfying decade in Hollywood history, the Seventies.
It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including best picture, director, and screenplay. It won two Oscars, for supporting actress (Estelle Parsons) and cinematography
The movie reminisce the middle of the Great Depression of 1930’s- The heydays for gangster pictures. Not coincidentally, they were also a heyday for gangsters. The trend of making films on this genre had always been fascination, the background and the true nature of the story was a catalyst for Arthur Penn & Warren Betty to exploit it so well. Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) meet when Clyde tries to steal Bonnie’s mother’s car. Bonnie, who is bored by her job as a waitress, is intrigued with Clyde, and decides to take up with him and become his partner in crime. They pull off some holdups, but their amateur efforts, while exciting, are not very lucrative.
Bonnie and Clyde brought the “true crime” movie back into vogue, modernized with graphic violence and frank sexual discussions. (“Graphic” and “frank” for the ‘60s that’s! By 2014 standards, the violence would barely warrant an R rating, and the sex is comfortably PG-13.) There hadn’t been a rise in real-life gangster-style bank robberies. Instead, the film was the byproduct of mid 60’s with Vietnam war, the American civil right movement and the French cinema new-wave in the glory.
Bonnie and Clyde is considered a landmark film, and is regarded as one of the first films of the New Hollywood era, since it broke many cinematic taboos and was popular with the younger generation. Its success prompted other filmmakers to be more open in presenting sex and violence in their films. The film’s ending also became iconic as “one of the bloodiest death scenes in cinematic history”
This movie influenced just about everything. “It was the first young American film, along with ’The Graduate’ and ‘The Easy Rider’ was all on youth and their very problems of swinging sixties and escapism….as this film characters were young and beautiful, romantically fleeing society’s criticisms, eventually dying together in a ballet of gunfire. The movie served as a metaphor for whatever Americans were angry about. Arthur Penn told the French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema that a group of black audience members “completely identified” with the movie. “They said: ‘This is the way; that’s the way to go, baby. Those cats were all right.’… In a certain sense the Afro Americans, showed same kind of attitude of ‘I have nothing more to lose that was true during the Depression for Bonnie and Clyde…. He really is at the point of revolution – “it’s rebellion, not riot.”
The movie was very sleek and stylish; especially the costumes, music and the attitude clearly struck a chord with audiences. Bonnie and Clyde’s fashion choices, the fedoras, caps, sou’westers and double-breasted suits for him, berets and long skirts for her — became popular. The banjo-hillbilly theme song, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” by Flatt and Scruggs, became a top 10 hit, 18 years after it was first recorded.
Francis Ford Coppola, the director of film “God Father” spoke about the scene of the death of Sony Corleone was inspired from Bonnie & Clyde”, there are long lists of film which was inspired from the same movie and no less one called Boxcar Bertha (1972), directed by a young Martin Scorsese. Whenever ordinary people, whether they’re lovers or friends, get caught up in a cycle of violence and flee the law — Thelma & Louise, for instance. Quentin Tarantino might not exist at all if it weren’t for this movie. You can see the influence in his screenplays for True Romance and Natural Born Killers, not to mention his general fondness for stylized violence.
Further history of sorts- Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, which was made two years later in 1969, established a new way to shoot violent scenes: with fast editing and slow-motion. You probably can’t count how many movies you’ve seen that switch to slow-motion when an important character gets gunned down. If Bonnie and Clyde didn’t invent that, it certainly popularized it. As for fast editing, the average shot in Bonnie and Clyde is less than 4 seconds long close to that’s typical now in Hollywood and other industries, like 6 to 10 seconds was a common average shot length. Movies have gotten faster, in other words, and Bonnie and Clyde helped nudged them in that direction.
Pretty clearly, that year of 1967 was the year of Bonnie & Clyde, the sort of tribute you’d expect to see years later and the outlaws were popularly known as “Bonnie and Clyde” already, but there’s another good reason Bonnie’s name comes first: It’s really her story. She’s the first person we see — in tight close-up, bored, peering through the slats of her bed frame like prison bars — and it’s her emotions that fuel the action.
Bonnie is an unconventional women and very obsessive lover too. Bonnie loves Clyde and quite mad about him like doomed lovers in other stories, they are frequently the only two characters. The film is 15 minutes old before anyone else has a speaking part. Throughout their crime spree, Bonnie is most incensed by the presence of other character in the movie, which includes Clyde’s brother and sister-in-law, a getaway driver, etc.
The first half of the film is generally light, often funny. Being an outlaw is fun, it seems to say. Look how ebullient this is! It’s in the second half that things start to get serious. Notice the cue: When Bonnie says she misses her mother, we hear plaintive strings on the soundtrack. It’s the first time the musical score has used anything other than jaunty banjo ditties.
If you look at this movie- you can notice several larger themes too. Gender roles, class struggles, and fractured families are an issue. There’s also a populist, anti-bank streak, depicted without much subtlety. You can watch Clyde unloads his gun into a “foreclosed” sign and also Clyde’s first kill involves shooting a man in the eye; which referenced in the end as his doom becomes eminent, with a much outlawed tag.
- Directed by Arthur Penn
- Produced by Warren Beatty
- Written by David Newman & Robert Benton
- Special Consultant: Robert Towne
- Casting:Warren Beatty; Faye Dunaway; Michael J. Pollard; Gene Hackman & Estelle Parsons
- Music by Charles Strouse
- Cinematography by Burnett Guffey
- Editing by Dede Allen
- Distributed by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
- Release dates: August 13, 1967
- Run time of 111 minutes
- Country: United States
- Language: English