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Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Cast: Warren Beatty, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, more...
Director: Arthur Penn, Arthur Penn
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Warner Home Video
Genre: Manhunt, Classic Crime, Crime, Classic Crime, Gangsters, Quest, Manhunt, Road Movies, Manhunt
Running Time: 112 min.
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
    see additional details...

Producer/star Warren Beatty had to convince Warner Bros. to finance this film, which went on to become the studio's second-highest grosser. It also caused major controversy by redefining violence in cinema and casting its criminal protagonists as sympathetic anti-heroes. Based loosely on the true exploits of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker during the 30s, the film begins as Clyde (Beatty) tries to steal the car of Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway)'s mother. Bonnie is excited by Clyde's outlaw demeanor, and he further stimulates her by robbing a store in her presence. Clyde steals a car, with Bonnie in tow, and their legendary crime spree begins. The two move from town to town, pulling off small heists, until they join up with Clyde's brother Buck (Gene Hackman), his shrill wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), and a slow-witted gas station attendant named C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard). The new gang robs a bank and Clyde is soon painted in the press as a Depression-era Robin Hood when he allows one bank customer to hold onto his money. Soon the police are on the gang's trail and they are constantly on the run, even kidnapping a Texas Ranger (Denver Pyle) and setting him adrift on a raft, handcuffed, after he spits in Bonnie's face when she kisses him. That same ranger leads a later raid on the gang that leaves Buck dying, Blanche captured, and both Clyde and Bonnie injured. The ever-loyal C.W. takes them to his father's house. C.W.'s father disaproves his son's affiliation with gangsters and enters a plea bargain with the Texas Rangers. A trap is set that ends in one of the bloodiest death scenes in cinematic history. The film made stars out of Beatty and Dunaway, and it also featured the screen debut of Gene Wilder as a mortician briefly captured by the gang. Its portrayal of Bonnie and Clyde as rebels who empathized with the poor working folks of the 1930s struck a chord with the counterculture of the 1960s and helped generate a new, young audience for American movies that carried over into Hollywood's renewal of the 1970s. Its combination of sex and violence with dynamic stars, social relevance, a traditional Hollywood genre, and an appeal to hip young audiences set the pace for many American movies to come. ~ Don Kaye, All Movie Guide

Special Features:

  • Production Notes
  • Theatrical Trailer

GreenCine Member Reviews

And the "New Hollywood" was born. by dwhudson March 21, 2002 - 8:13 AM PST
7 out of 8 members found this review helpful
How do you begin to describe the shockwaves this movie sent through Hollywood back in 1967? Well, fortunately, that's already been done in Peter Biskind's excellent Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, a history of the "New Hollywood" with each chapter more or less focusing on a single film for each year of the decade many now talk about as a "golden age." And for Biskind, the 70s started in '67 with this movie.

There are a couple of reasons it rattled Hollywood's cage, but mainly, director Arthur Penn summed it up best at the time: "We're in the Vietnamese War, this film cannot be immaculate and sanitized and bang-bang. It's fucking bloody."

But of course, it was more than that. Screenwriters Robert Benton and David Newman turn out to be pretty quotable, too: "The thing we loved about Bonnie and Clyde wasn't that they were bank robbers, because they were lousy bank robbers. The thing about them that made them so appealing and relevant, and so threatening to society, was that they were aesthetic revolutionaries."

For me, the movie is a key turning point in an ongoing dialogue between European and American moviemaking. Broadly sketched: after WWII, Europe was deluged with American product. In France, Truffaut and Godard in particular ate it up and spit it back out, shot through with all kinds of spunky new life. And they were particularly wild about the gangster genre.

Well, Benton and Newman were big Truffaut and Godard fans. They saw Breathlesstogether in 1963; Benton watched Jules and Jim12 times in two months. And they wrote Bonnie and Clydein the hopes that Truffaut would direct it.

Nothing against Truffaut, of course, but I'm glad Warren Beatty tapped Arthur Penn instead. Not only is he an enormously inventive and intuitive director -- my favorite scene: the moment, the mere split-second of silence when our two anti-heroes realize they're about to be literally blown to bits; and look at each other with that this is itlook -- but Penn simply got into the nooks and crannies of an America Truffaut wouldn't have known to look for.

One last point. The "New Hollywood" probably would have happened with or without this movie, but Bonnie and Clydecertainly jump-started it. Besides opening doors to fresh filmmakers, though, it also helped launch the career of the "NH"s most important cheerleader, Pauline Kael. She submitted a 1000-word rave to The New Republic, and when it was rejected, she went to The New Yorkerwith it (look for it in the indispensible For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies).

So the stage was set. Young talent, weened on 60s counterculture, would take their projects to LA while, from her perch in NYC, Kael would harangue the upper and middle classes looking for countercultural cred into creating a market for their work. A perfect match.

Because these filmmakers and Kael were after the same thing. It's all in Kael's stand-out line from her review of B and C: "The audience is alive to it." That, more than spectacle, more than craft, more than professionalism, was the one dominant criterion. Aesthetic revolution indeed.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.50)
338 Votes
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