When I was seven, my favorite movie was Bonnie and Clyde. Yep, that explains a lot, doesn't it? Many, many years later, Bonnie and Clyde is still one of my favorite movies ever. I have no idea how many times I've seen it, hundreds probably, and it gets better every time I watch it.
You know the story: Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway play Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, the Depression era bank robbers. Along with the always fab Gene Hackman, the utterly amazing Estelle Parsons, and the perfecto Michael J. Pollard, they drive around to Flatts and Scruggs bluegrass music, hold up banks and get chased and shot. Is the movie historically accurate? No. Did it change the way movies were made and marketed? Oh, my, yes.
Bonnie and Clyde, directed by genius Arthur Penn, was released in 1967, and it gave viewers a heroic pair of romantic anti-heroes. While it mythologized them as societal rebels, it also humanized them by showing their real relationships, complications and shortcomings. It's grim and funny, gorgeous and violent, thoughtful and tragic. It's also one of the most beautifully shot films that I have ever seen. It's overtly and honestly sexual, and helped to break the grip of the strict Hollywood Production Code that had been in place for over thirty years.
When it first opened, it made no money and was panned by critics. Then, it received a reprieve when it received a few positive reviews, and the studio gave it a second chance. The movie went on to amazing critical acclaim, multiple Oscar nominations and its place in cinematic history.
There is an emotional darkness to Bonnie and Clyde that goes deeper than the frank violence and relationships between the characters. Part of it can be explained by the desperate Depression era setting. Part of it can be explained by the cinematography, the gorgeously stark shots. Part of it can be explained by the incredible actors and the depth they brought to their portrayals of such difficult characters.
Bonnie and Clyde were some of the first tragic villains or outlaws that America fell in love with. With that final scene, where the couple is double-crossed and shot full of holes in slow motion, the viewer feels complete sorrow and loss of these two people we have grown to care about. That is the key to the movie's success. These are two law-breaking, self-absorbed killers. Yet, by the end of the film, we have come to know them as people, and we want them to be as happy as they can in their world. When they're killed, it has an undeniable impact. Even though the movie is over forty years old and doesn't have the shock value it did to audiences at the time, it still packs an amazing visual and emotional wallop.
Favorite quote: "This here's Miss Bonnie Parker. I'm Clyde Barrow. We rob banks."