Sunday, May 23, 2010
Bonnie and Clyde
I must say that I really enjoyed Matthew Bernstein’s article, “Perfecting the New Gangster.” I’ve always really loved Bonnie and Clyde, yet I hadn’t really read much on the film, this was a great article. I knew that Truffaut had been interested in making Bonnie and Clyde, but I didn’t really know the story behind it. I’d always known Arthur Penn to have a very artistic style that seemed influenced by the New Wave, but it was nice to see it confirmed in this article. I’d previously seen the film Mickey One (1964), which was a sort of surreal noir film that deals with a stand up comics paranoia of feeling he is going to be assasinated at any time (which also starred Warren Beatty). But Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde takes on the generation, as something more defining. Like Bernstein’s article points out, both Bonnie and Clyde represent the 60s youth culture and flower children. In some ways, Bonnie and Clyde can be seen as a precursor to Easy Riders characters who meet a similar fatal end. Both evoke a similar spirit concerning America.
David Newton and Robert Benton created a timely script in the wake of the New Waves interest in the 30s and 40s gangster film. Previous films like Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player and Godard’s Band of Outsiders played with ideas about romance and crime, it makes a lot of sense that Bonnie and Clyde would appeal to them, yet Truffaut’s input in the script was a real surprise to me. Through all the massive re-writes it seems that they hit the perfect balance of an early gangster film mixed with a modern New Wave approach.
The films sexuality seems to be a curious one, with Clyde being impotent homosexual and Bonnie being the sexual aggressor. The film seems to be examining the changing sexual identities of the youth of the 60s, while crating anti-heroes out of criminals (the film the Harder They Come would do the same thing a few years later). The characters criminal exploits make them enemy outsiders of a bigger establishment (the banks), which American the youths of the 60s related to. Bonnie and Clyde’s pace can be seen as modernist in approach, as the editing crucially gives the film a hectic speediness right up to the bloody final. The ending was a real jaw dropper for me when I first saw it, for I was not prepared for the bloody shoot out.