A strange, sexy, violent film on the bizarre love and crime affair of Bonnie and Clyde brings Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway on a cross-country spree of madness that ends in a “death ballet” as bullets tear through their bodies in graphic slow motion. “Alternating effectively between scenes of terror, brutal realism, and almost slapstick comedy, Bonnie and Clyde” is loosely biographical and has a very realistic feel due to meticulous art design and location shooting in northeast Texas, where the landscape of the dustbowl era is nicely reproduced…to make the spectator strongly experience its horror and, even, mesmerizing beauty” (Schneider).
Featuring some fine performances by fresh Hollywood faces, this film is able to accomplish striking images in a story that seems to tear at the veneer of early twentieth century America until the skin breaks, ultimately showcasing a time and place that is able to stand on its own and reflexively recreate an alternative, albeit more realistic and brutal depression-era world.
My experience with this film was an interesting one. There were some fantastic performances in it, from Beatty to Hackman to Dunaway and Wilder… But I am not entirely sure what I think of it in a definitive sense. At times I felt like there was a bond I was forming with the characters, and at others, I felt bored and wished that whatever the scene was portraying was taking too long. At times I felt like the romanticized version of the capers and the relationship was absolutely beautiful, occurring in somewhat slapstick and pastoral scenes. At others, I felt like these people hardly know each other and how are they having so much fun together, and what they were doing was terrible – and not in the ironic, allegorical, fun manner of Natural Born Killers, but in a different, awkward way, as if the overall writing and editing of this film was leaving a lot to be desired.
Which brings me to a major point… I am actually unsure if this is a good movie. It just sort of starts, and then there are a variety of awkwardly-pieced-together scenes that don’t really follow any standard narrative structure and are just vignettes of their time on the road. It seemed like when it was important to mention that they wrote poetry, here you go here is a poetry scene, and it wasn’t mentioned before or after. When the violence starts, it is so terribly graphic and egregious and poorly staged, opposite to the beautiful scenes that occur before and after but in an awkward way rather than an artistic binary way, that it is disorienting and almost silly. The final scene, for instance, was really cool and original, until the violence started. Then, it was… stupid.
The performances were incredible and there were some really great shots that really make a case for the team on the ground putting together this film, but I am not sure the final product does it any justice and I felt that it was way too long.
Now, where I think this film really stands out in terms of what it does accomplish, from what I understand, is that the violence ushered in a new, hyperreal version of what one can expect in the cinema. Where before, the MPAA and film censorship board was making strong cases for a variety of reasons why the public needed to be shielded from certain ideas and images (and oh man would even the idea of Harcore Henry make them roll over in their graves), this was a new era of filmmaking and violence that is tame by today’s standards but was shocking and disgusting when it came out. That said, there was a great deal about the film that was dismissed, and eventually they came around on that in hindsight. It is an okay film, and as a historical document it definitely does something new and fresh, but as a film on its own I only found myself gasping and feeling sentimental at certain points, and most of the time just confused about what the intentions of the piece actually were.
The film just seems to start at the beginning, and then vignette, vignette, vignette, and then violence, violence, violence, and poof, it is over. Not fantastic writing and editing, but the cool camera stuff, direction, and performances seem to make up with what the script and editing lack – which is a lot in my opinion. The aspects of the French New Wave style in the film are perhaps its best quality, ushering in a new era in American Cinema to audiences who had never seen anything like it before.
I was very interested in viewing this movie, being aware of the folklore of “Bonnie and Clyde.” There were parts of this movie I greatly appreciated, and parts that I felt seemed forced, or artificial in the building of the narrative. Also, some of the violent scenes, which are perhaps what this movie is most well-known for, felt gratuitous and exaggerated. Maybe that was the point? I’m not sure.
The movie begins in a very choppy and disoriented manner. We meet the two main characters, Bonnie and Clyde. In about two minutes, the narrative reveals Bonnie is unhappy living at home with her mother, thus it should be plausible she agrees to run off with Clyde after a few moments encounter. Throughout the movie there is not a lot of character development. The narrative is most about a scheme to rob a bank, the robbing of the bank, and the escape. Bonnie and Clyde’s relationship doesn’t really evolve. There was one beautifully shot scene where Bonnie returns to visit her mother and family. In this scene, you literally see the dry desolate landscape of Texas with dirt and dust swirling around. In contrast to the bleak surroundings, Bonnie and Clyde appear shiny and bright.
The setting and the style of the movie were spot on. While I didn’t feel “wowed” by this film, it is important to note the significance of this move. Bonnie and Clyde was very controversial at the time of its release in 1967. The degree of violence depicted in this movie had never before appeared in a major motion picture. Bonnie and Clyde caused a shift in film making and what could be shown on film. I believe it is considered a classic due in part to how it greatly influenced film and for the extraordinary performances by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.