Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

4.5/5

USA; Arthur Penn

 

Parental Guidance – Strong Violence

 


A romanticized and heightened account of the brief, violent lives of two of the Depression-era most notable outlaws, Clyde Borrow (Warren Beattey) and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway), the movie follows this archetypal couple on the run, leaving in their wake a string of resounding bank heists and a country torn between nebulous fear and childish enthusiasm. The film is set in motion when Bonnie, a blasé fair-haired provincial waitress apprehends a small-time hood on parole trying to steal her mother’s car, instantly falling for his gangster persona and cool demeanor. Turning to crime with a puerile innocence, gusto and bonhomie belied by the escalating brutality of their acts, they become the target of a statewide manhunt. Their spree climaxes with their gruesome execution, a poignant conclusion to the epic of a bunch of kids that never grasped they had asked for a one-way ticket to perdition.    

 

Under the grey glum skies of the Despression-era Dust Bowl, Bonnie and Clyde instantly became the symbol of a glamour and panache everybody thought dead when the illusory prosperity of the Roaring Twenties faded away.  That this film has little to do with the real-life exploits of the Borrow gang makes no difference at all. It is a beautiful, haunting endeavor and a great reminder, lest we forget, of the exhilarating, overwhelming, unhinging power cinema carries. Blending broad comedy and tragedy, intermingling tragic heroes and clowns, Bonnie and Clyde is almost Shakespearean and its sheer scope and scale make for a compulsively entertaining, yet profound and suitably desperate cinematic experience. 
 

At no point do Bonnie and Clyde turn into the fierce gangsters advertised. Given America’s tradition of violence and how other Interwar mobsters played in similarly themed movies, they seem to be clueless dilettantes, country kids playing with guns, driven by a craving for adventure rather than greed or appetite for carnage. Their genuine lack of sadism and a foolish determination to take everything as a joke will, at their demise, make them appear more innocent than the lawmen chasing them. What they did was inexcusable, and society didn’t forgive them even as bullets ripped them to shreds; we, as an audience, almost instinctively do. Beattey and Dunaway distill not only a reckless energy and magnetism, but also a heartfelt tenderness, heightening every caress with playfulness and dolorous ecstasy.


Much more than another anti-Establishment witty caper fraught with shocking violence and sexual frankness, riffing on the French New Wave spontaneity, Bonnie and Clyde also plays like a scathing morality tale about the inescapability of some choices made when everything seems to crumble around us.    

 

 

Bonnie and clyde original

Boniie and clyde faye dunaway

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