Jul 10, 2015

[Movies] Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

When you hear the words "Bonnie and Clyde," it feels a lot more like the sort of pop culture line that becomes a catchphrase. People don't always know what the original context of the quote is - they just know to use it for two people being together in perhaps a less than benevolent way. Perhaps we could say that it's when you're "infamously together" or something along those lines.

I'm still dealing with the fallout of having watched Casting By, and thus the decision to secure a copy of the ever classic film, Bonnie and Clyde, based on the real-life criminals of the same name. Of course in the movie they're both drop-dead gorgeous, as is the way of the Hollywood process.

The movie is known of representing a turning point in Hollywood history, and it took me a while to fully appreciate why. If anything, it's a movie with a lot of sensibilities that feel almost modern and that was what made it so jarring. It pushed the limits and broke new ground and became quite the brave movie experience.

Synopsis: Bonnie and Clyde is a 1967 biographical crime drama directed by Arthur Penn. The screenplay was written by David Newman and Robert Benton, while Robert Towne and Warren Beatty also provided uncredited contributions to the script. The movie won Best Supporting Actress for Blanche Barrow and Best Cinematography for Burnett Guffrey along with other awards and award nominations.

During the time of the Great Depression in the US and we have the chance meeting of Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway), although the reasons for their meeting involves Clyde trying to steal Bonnie's car. But something about Clyde intrigues the waitress and soon the two are partners in crime for a series of petty thefts and hold-ups. They don't make much money, but at least they're having fun and making some progress.

But then they meet the somewhat dim-witted C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard) and he tries out to be their wheel man for a while (to borrow the modern term). The gang grows to include Clyde's older brother Buck (Gene Hackman) along with Buck's girlfriend, Blanche (Estelle Parsons). And as the nature of their crimes escalate, so does the animosity between Bonnie and Blanche as the two women have been at odds since the beginning. And with the larger crimes, there are also additional casualties that only makes the police more eager to capture them - dead or alive.

First, the pairing of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway is just mind-blowing. They're both highly attractive and quite competent actors in their own right and the two work together quite well in this movie. The movie revolves around them, but they also know how to step back in order to really sell the audience on the whole ensemble nature of their little gang.

When viewed in comparison to more modern movies, it doesn't seem all that notable. If anything, it seems like it was cut from a similar cloth but with less special effects and such. But if you look at the movies that came before it, then you'll see just how drastically different it was compared to everything else. The movie embraced the possibility of depicting sex and violence on-screen in a manner unheard of prior to the film. And it didn't go all the way to being fully graphic or resorting to full-on nudity or something. But they use of more suggestive motions and interesting practical effects resulted in quite the stellar movie.

To be fair, the movie was rather violent to a rather graphic extent, especially towards the latter half of the movie. The early action seemed a lot lighter and somewhat comedic or slapstick in tone, like when C.W. Moss parks the getaway card between two other cars, thus making a speedy escape impossible. But then you get latter scenes depicting how members of the gang were taken out one by one with increasingly graphic and bloody death scenes. And they're still somewhat tasteful although definitely shocking. On the whole, it's all quite well done.

There's a lot to love about this movie ranging from the casting to the shift in tone or even the action. There's the special effects, the dynamic scenes and all the other good stuff in-between. Sure, this is probably not 100% accurate with respect to the actual people involved, but we watch such movies not for realism but for the quality of the story it tells.

Bonnie and Clyde is a tricky movie to watch and you need to do a little research to fully appreciate why it is the way it is and what it represents in the greater scheme of things in terms of Hollywood history. And on its own, it's a pretty clever story, as is the way of many real-life inspired stories I guess. The movie itself gets 4 shocking deaths out of a possible 5.


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