1934. Young adults Bonnie Parker, a waitress, and Clyde Barrow, a criminal just released from prison, are immediately attracted to what the other represents for their life when they meet by chance in West Dallas, Texas. Bonnie is fascinated with Clyde's criminal past, and his matter-of-factness and bravado in talking about it. Clyde sees in Bonnie someone sympatico to his goals in life. Although attracted to each other physically, a sexual relationship between the two has a few obstacles to happen. Regardless, they decide to join forces to embark on a life of crime, holding up whatever establishments, primarily banks, to make money and to have fun. They don't plan on hurting anyone physically or killing anyone despite wielding loaded guns. They amass a small gang of willing accomplices, including C.W. Moss, a mechanic to fix whatever cars they steal which is important especially for their getaways, and Buck Barrow, one of Clyde's older brothers. The only reluctant tag-along is Buck's ... Written by
Billed as 'America's Most Wanted Broadway Musical, 'Bonnie & Clyde' is set to open on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in November, 2011 starring Laura Osnes Laura and Jeremy Jordan. See more »
Bonnie pays the grocery delivery boy with modern Sixties-era currency - dollar bills looked quite different during Depression, when story took place. See more »
...the truck drivers come in to eat greasy burgers and they kid you and you kid them back, but they're stupid and dumb, boys with big tattoos all over 'em, and you don't like it... And they ask you for dates and sometimes you go... but you mostly don't, and all they ever try is to get into your pants whether you want to or not... and you go home and sit in your room and think, when and how will I ever get away from this?... And now you know.
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When Arthur Penn's Thirties-set gangster movie first appeared in 1967 it was like a breath of fresh air in the American cinema, (though to be fair, on hindsight, the American cinema in the previous few years, particularly in the Independent sector, wasn't doing too badly). Still, Penn's movie seemed to break new ground and not just in it's depiction of violence. It had a lyrical intensity that belonged more to the French New Wave, (and at one time Truffaut's name was associated with the project), and, in that it took back to the American cinema the trappings that the French had originally borrowed in films like "A Bout De Soufflé" and "Shoot the Pianist", seemed to square the circle.
In the intervening years it has fallen somewhat out of fashion. It now almost seems quaintly old-fashioned, it's form more classically structured and narratively driven than might first appeared. But there are virtues that have largely been overlooked. Like "The Graduate" which came out in the same year, it is a young person's film yet it burns with a fierce intelligence that is conspicuously absent from similar films today. I suppose you could say the film has a pop-art sensibility, (a close-up of Faye Dunaway's face, lips burning bright red, could come from a Lichtenstein poster), and its cast seem unnaturally young, (only Beatty had established a persona for himself at the time; the others had yet to establish a reputation), but they became stars because of it. (Gang members Parsons and Pollard didn't make the leap; they were character actors from the start). Arguably you could say Beatty, Dunaway, Hackman, Parsons and Pollard were never to better their work here. They may have equalled it but their performances were definitive.
Arthur Penn, too, was never to make another movie as good. The film's extraordinary critical and popular success gave Penn the freedom to tackle 'weightier' material, but "Little Big Man" and "Georgia's Friends" now seem misguided attempts at solemnity, while even his brilliant western "The Missouri Breaks" seems to succeed more for it's oddness rather than it's originality. Perhaps "Bonnie and Clyde" was a one-off though it did spawn an awful lot of break-neck thrillers and up-dated film-noirs, and was more responsible for the baby-boom in movies in the seventies than "Easy Rider" which followed it two years later. It remains a film ripe for reassessment.
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