Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde was directed by Arthur Penn and Warren Beatty, the latter also stared the movie alongside Faye Dunaway. The movie got considerable attention because of its mix of graphic violence, sex, humor, and its theme of glamorous disaffected youth. When Jack Warner, CEO of Warner Bros, first saw a rough cut of the film he hated it and the film got a low-key premiere and limited release. The reviews from the film critics were bad and the movie had a disappointing first run in the American box office. Then it unexpectedly became a huge hit in England. It was reopened in American cinemas, took quickly off, and gained big success.

The film was intended to be a romantic and comic version of the violent gangster films. The director portrayed violent scenes with a comic tone and then shifted into shocking and graphic violence, with endless, unnecessary killings following an unrestrained few years of assassinations and war. Bold violence and sexuality are both central themes in the film. Clyde is exposed as unambiguously heterosexual with a need for violence for his own sexuality. Bonnie and Clyde was released in an era where shootings were illustrated as bloodless and painless, and the Bonnie and Clyde death scene was one of the first portrayed with graphic realism using stage blood to simulate bullet hits. The violence onscreen in Bonnie and Clyde made audiences confront death in ways most films avoided.

The script of Bonnie and Clyde was much influenced by the French New Wave movement. What separated Bonnie and Clyde from being completely French however, is Allen’s editing. The staccato-like, disjointed but not unstructured editing makes this film stand out. Allen is not cutting on beats who are typical for Hollywood pictures, and reveals things about the characters that are not included in the dialogue, every time she cuts. She cuts between their reactions, getting closer and closer as they are becoming more intimate. Then, after the embarrassment is realized, she is cutting to a long shot. This allows Clyde to proclaim his dominance over Bonnie again.

Through the visual language, it becomes clear that Clyde is impotent and it is not necessary to reveal it through dialogue. The movie is full of moments like this, and a lot of emotions and impressions are exposed through the editing. Telling the American story of a couple bank robbers, Bonnie and Clyde was a gangster movie that did not look like any previous Hollywood gangster film. The film expanded the emotional range of the genre and changed the audience’s expectations of how an American movie should make people feel.


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