Watched: November 14 2020

Director: Arthur Penn

Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Michael J. Pollard, Estelle Parsons, Gene Wilder

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 51min

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Bonnie Parker (Dunaway) is a bored small town waitress looking for trouble. Trouble arrives in the form of recently released convict Clyde Barrow (Beatty). The two fall instantly in love when he tries to steal her mother’s car and then performs a robbery just to prove to Bonnie that he really is a convict.

“Impotence and poverty don’t bother me none, but there’s no way I’ll ever date a man who doesn’t have a record.”

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Bonnie and Clyde take off to travel around the US robbing and looting. You know, normal first-year-of-a-relationship-stuff. Soon, the two hook up with gas station attendant C.W. Moss (Pollard), kill their first man, and go see a musical. Two of those things might be more important to the plot than the other. Once Clyde’s brother Buck (Hackman) and his wife Blanche (Parsons) join the group as well, the Barrow gang is born.

We pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot!
We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot!
We also need all your money and a fourth for our barbershop quartet.

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The gang continue the crime spree started by the protagonists, and as they grow in notoriety and their crimes grow in brutality, the web starts closing in around them. It’s not long before law enforcement starts to catch up…

“No, ma’am, I ain’t here to arrest you. I just wanted a picture for the grandkids. Much obliged!”

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Bonnie and Clyde doesn’t really follow a traditional structure – it starts right in on the action and then has a fairly flat structure throughout, until the final shoot out and credits. Which is not a criticism – it works. There’s just not a lot of ups and downs in action and tension. In a lot of ways, it reminded us of some of the French movies we’ve watched from the ’60s, which is probably intentional from the director. The flat structure also gives it a bit of a documentary feel, although there’s very little else which gives that impression.

Least of all Gene Wilder’s face. There’s no way you can watch his scenes in this movie and not project the character of Fronkonsteen onto this hapless young man.

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We loved the old timey car chases, the costumes, the clip from Gold Diggers of 1933, and the match made in hell of Bonnie and Clyde. As always with movies based on real events, we fall for the temptation of doing some fact checking, and so here is some trivia, based on about 5 minutes of googling. Inaccuracies may occur.
1. There’s little evidence to substantiate the claim that Clyde Barrow was impotent or otherwise unable to perform sexually. There is however some evidence that he was brutally raped in prison, and also that he was bisexual.
2. The couple killed their first man in 1932, but then went right to the cinema to see a movie musical released in 1933. We can only conclude that the pair owned a time machine [citation needed].

“Hey, Clyde!” “Yeah, Bonnie?” “Do you think maybe we should have used that time travel thingamajig to foresee this predicament?” “Well, it’s too late now!” “Uhm… Is it..?”

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Despite the historical inaccuracies and the fact that Bonnie and Clyde never once used their time machine to do anything except watch movies, we really enjoyed this. It is of course an inaccurate version of the very real criminals, but they’re perhaps not overly romanticized – they’re both flawed people in difficult situations, neither heroic nor vilified. All in all, very good. And we can’t wait for the inevitable sequel where they team up with Marty McFly.

“Just gotta get this bad boy up to 88 mph and we are home free!”

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What we learned: The minute someone orders you to change your hair is the minute you should dump them. Also, Arthur Penn was in love with Faye Dunaway’s face.

Next time: Cool Hand Luke (1967)

One thought on “#283 Bonnie and Clyde

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