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Films >> Bonnie and Clyde (1967) >>

1) Bonnie and Clyde is a milestone in the history of American movies, a work of truth and brilliance. It is also pitilessly cruel, filled with sympathy, nauseating, funny, heartbreaking, and astonishingly beautiful. If it does not seem that those words should be strung together, perhaps that is because movies do not very often reflect the full range of human life. (Roger Ebert)

2) Conceptually, the film leaves much to be desired, because killings and the backdrop of the Depression are scarcely material for a bundle of laughs. (David Kaufman)

3) The horror of the violent experience appears in graphic detail. Body parts split apart . . . blood spurts . . . viewers get to see their gaping and painful wounds. In this respect, Bonnie and Clyde makes a significant impact as the cinema of violence. It presents realistic and horrible bloodshed in a manner that many other filmmakers later copied. (Robert Brent Toplin)

4) Bonnie and Clyde needs violence, violence is its meaning. (Pauline Kael)

5) Bonnie and Clyde is not only the sleeper of the decade but also, to a growing consensus of audiences and critics, the best movie of the year. (Time)

6) The fact is when Bonnie and Clyde were killed, they were regarded as enormous folk heroes. (Arthur Penn)

7) For not only were they relatively minor figures in their day; they were in every sense of the word “punks,” vicious and petty and despised even by the contemporaries in the criminal world- a far cry from their movie versions. (John Toland)

8) They kill and rob banks; but they share the common concerns of common men. (Time)

9) They seemed to consider themselves public servants, bringing a little sparkle to the poverty and despair of the Dust Bowl during the early Depression years. (Roger Ebert)

10) It's a picture with conflicting moods, racing from crime to comedy, and intermingling genuinely moving love scenes between Faye Dunaway as Bonnie and Beatty as Clyde. (David Kaufman)

11) A segment of the public wants the intellectually demanding, emotionally fulfilling kind of film exemplified by Bonnie and Clyde. (Time)

12) Though unable to satisfy her sexually, Clyde does come to dominate Bonnie through a combination of flattery and force of personality (O'Connor and Jackson)

13) In [the] early stages, Penn has developed a farce that is hard to accept seriously. Ineptitude is at a premium. More importantly, criminal actions are attributed to accidents of circumstance and it is strongly indicated that they are not very malicious. (O'Connor and Jackson)

14) The real Bonnie and Clyde were a dangerous pair, and the United States has, in many respects, a violent tradition. (Robert Brent Toplin)

15) They're young... they're in love... and they kill people. (Movie tagline)

16) The protagonists emerge as reasonably attractive -- physically and psychologically -- figures who are simply rebelling against the system. (O'Connor and Jackson)

17) This is pretty clearly the best American film of the year. It is also a landmark. Years from now it is quite possible that Bonnie and Clyde will be seen as the definitive film of the 1960s, showing with sadness, humor and unforgiving detail what one society had come to. The fact that the story is set 35 years ago doesn't mean a thing. It had to be set sometime. But it was made now and it's about us. (Roger Ebert)

18) Pain becomes palpable, and the actors became horribly real as the screen turns as bloody as a slaughterhouse floor. (Time)

19) In a way Bonnie and Clyde were pioneers, consolidating the vein of violence in American history and exploiting it, for the first time in the mass media. (Roger Ebert)

20) This inconsistency of direction is the most obvious fault of Bonnie and Clyde, which has some good ingredients, although they are not meshed together well. (David Kaufman)

21) Reactions to Bonnie and Clyde brought into conflict the interests of art and the broader interests of society. As a creative attempt to portray a historical episode with imaginative use of new techniques and fashions of the cinema, the movie was a stunning achievement. (Robert Brent Toplin)

22) But what matters most about Bonnie and Clyde is the new freedom of its style, expressed not so much by camera trickery as by its yoking of disparate elements into a coherent artistic whole—the creation of unity from in congruity. (Time)

23) It is a measure of the movie's excellence that it has transformed those unlikely, unlikable criminals into the leading characters of an epic folk opera. (Time)

24) This constant change in tone, from burlesque to pathos, from empathy to revulsion, marks the entire production. Viewers are constantly emotionally off balance, never knowing quite how to react for fear there will be a shift in the next scene. (O'Conner and Jackson)

25) When people are shot in "Bonnie and Clyde," they are literally blown to bits. Perhaps that seems shocking. But perhaps at this time, it is useful to be reminded that bullets really do tear skin and bone, and that they don't make nice round little holes like the Swiss cheese effect in Fearless Fosdick. (Roger Ebert)

26) Bonnie and Clyde makes viewers laugh at the criminals behavior, elicits a sense of pathos and also excites feelings of disgust. (Robert Brent Toplin)

27) Blending humor and horror, it draws the audience in sympathy toward its antiheroes. It is, at the same time, a commentary on the mindless daily violence of the American '60s and an esthetic evocation of the past. Yet it observes the '30s not as lived but as remembered, the perspective rippled by the years to show that there are mirages of time as well as space. (Time)

28) The theme of a 1930s “underworld” inhabited by heroes was quite comparable to the “underground” of the youth culture of the 1960s. (O'Conner and Jackson)

29) The movie simultaneously romanticizes the duo while de-mythologizing them. The relationship between these two is presented as one of the 20th century's great romances. And, like a modern-day Robin Hood and his Merry Men, the Barrow Gang come across as champions for the undertrodden. (James Berardinelli)

30) We weren’t making a documentary, any more than Shakespeare was writing documentaries in his Chronicle plays. To some extent we did romanticize -- but so, inevitably, does any storyteller. . . . We do not purport to tell the exact truth, but we do tell a truth. (Arthur Penn)

31) The movie shocks and confuses by closely juxtaposing contrasts. Scenes suggesting romance or comedy are broken abruptly by vicious acts of violence and then followed by more amusement (such as rapid car chases accompanied by the lively banjo music of Earl Scruggs and his Foggy Mountain Boys). (Robert Brent Toplin)

32) By examining the scriptwriting process behind this American classic, we see how an innovative film whose original concept, storyline, narrative structure, and characters' psychology were all inspired by the French New Wave ultimately became a New Hollywood film, and how the sensibility and aesthetics of the two were so closely intertwined. (Matthew Bernstein)

33) In one sense, it is an ideal subject for analysis of its relationship to the moment in which it was realized; in another, it poses the question of what more can be said about a movie that has been exhaustively discussed by successive generations. . . . Precisely because of its enduring appeal, Bonnie and Clyde exemplifies the process of accumulation of meaning and the interweaving of myth and documented evidence that characterize historical analysis and reconstruction.
(Pam Cook)

34) Just about everyone with an opinion on Bonnie and Clyde, which means just about everyone, takes an interest in two interrelated aspects of the 1967 film. One is its effort to recycle an American myth of the Thirties in terms that resonate with Americans in later years. The other is its relevance to an array of political issues and cultural fashions, from the failings of capitalism and the legitimacy of violence to the vicissitudes of film criticism and the escalation of wide-screen mayhem. (David Sterritt)

35) There was a great similarity between the upheavals American society experienced during the 1930s and the 1960s. One theme that had great resonance in both eras was the veneration of the outlaw. It is striking that popular 1960s films were devoted to stories of lawbreakers such as Bonnie and Clyde and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. These films cast light on the issues that were at the heart of public discourse at that time. Through the myth of the outlaw such films addressed major problems of American society and challenged society's conventions. (Arnon Gutfeld)

36) The notion that Bonnie and Clyde were folk heroes who were rebelling with mid-60s panache against a repressive society appears in Newman and Benton's very first treatment, as an expression of what the writers identified in the pages of Esquire as "the new sentimentality.” (Matthew Bernstein)

37) This was a fable for the 1960s that translated the inchoate challenge to the American Dream motivating the "public enemies" of the 1930s into the modern epoch of anti-establishment resistance. (Pam Cook)

38) The movie’s most informed commentator, Lester D. Friedman, groups it with The Graduate (1967) and Easy Rider (1969) as catalysts for an American film renaissance that effectively challenged the reigning "moral, ideological and communal values" of U.S. culture. (David Sterritt)

39) The great trauma that resulted from the political assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Robert Kennedy found expression in repeated themes of loss in the popular films of the 1960s. Hence the birth of the myth of the young martyr who lived a "fast life" and died in his prime, captured succinctly in the popular slogan of the time: "Live fast, die young and have a beautiful corpse." This was a martyrology unique to the popular culture of the 1950s and 1960s. (Arnon Gutfeld)

40) Newman has recently reiterated this point in a reminiscence about writing the film: "Bonnie and Clyde is about style and people who have style. It is about people whose style set them apart from their time and place so that they seemed odd and aberrant to the general run of society." (Matthew Bernstein)

41) The 1967 production further embellished the legend; film-makers’ disregard for historical accuracy was evident in their insouciant deviation from documented facts. (Pam Cook)

42) Penn’s movie is neither as brave nor as brilliant as enthusiasts claim, but its historical importance is unquestionable, and for many present-day viewers, it still packs a vigorous tragicomic punch. (David Sterritt)

43) The counter-culture thus developed an outlaw consciousness. It centered on cultural lawbreaking that involved constructing both a new self-image and a new consciousness of law breaking. Alternative radical movements such as the hippies and the Diggers (a San Francisco anarchist guerrilla street theater group that advanced numerous counterculture themes) developed this new understanding of the meaning of law-breaking through subversive street theater, initiating provocative actions that were aimed at destroying public trust in the accepted social norms and which raised new questions about spiritual and ethical standards. (Arnon Gutfeld)

44) Robert Towne, on location in Texas as script doctor, added Mrs. Parker's dialogue about their certain death ("You best keep runnin, Clyde Barrow") to tinge the reunion with the logic and emotion of Bonnie's homesickness. . . . Giving Bonnie a sense of what John Cawelti has characterized as tragic self-knowledge was thus a process that continued through various stages of scriptwriting. It was a crucial part of making Bonnie even more appealing to viewers. . . . With each script revision, Newman and Benton (and in this instance, Penn and Towne) crafted a more romantic central couple, particularly giving Bonnie a softness (as with a shot of her comforting Blanche after Buck is fatally wounded) that conformed more closely to traditional notions of femininity, alongside her rebellious and unconventional nature. (Matthew Bernstein)

45) Just as the depression-era gangsters emerged from a period of social turmoil, Bonnie and Clyde appeared at a moment of transition for American society, as the 1950s consensus cracked under pressure from protest and Civil Rights and a youth-oriented cultural revolution in which many dissenting voices clamored to be heard. . . . Although Bonnie and Clyde has been seen as capturing the 1960s insurgent ethos, it could equally be interpreted as a critique of infantilized America on the brink of anarchy.
(Pam Cook)

46) The romantic image of the outlaw emanated from a fundamental American tradition. (Arnon Gutfeld)

47) The only major change Clyde underwent in revision was Penn's addition of his intuitive social consciousness, his almost accidental taking on of the cause of the dispossessed as justification for his life of crime. (Matthew Bernstein)

48) Beatty and Penn set out to make a taboo-breaking work that would be very different from the worthy liberal output of the major studios directed at middle-aged, lower-middle-class Americans. Audience demographics were changing, an Bonnie and Clyde was deliberately aimed at younger, educated, cine-literate cinemagoers. Nevertheless, the structure of the script, with its progressively darker tone and impetus towards bloody retribution, owed as much to classic gangster movies as to nouvelle vague vagaries. Bonnie and Clyde’s innovations were in tension with its reliance on elements of classic cinema, creating a friction that intensified its disturbing aura of unfulfilled desire.
(Pam Cook)

49) The lives of the outlaws moved along an adventurous and stormy track that ended in a violent death at a very young age. Short, intensive lives and early death characterized the careers of mega-stars such as actor James Dean and later, popular singers, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. (Arnon Gutfeld)

50) The creation of what Lester Friedman has called Clyde's "alternative family" occurs "naturally" and gradually in the film, an expression of Clyde's need for community rather than his cold calculations as to how to rob more effectively. (Matthew Bernstein)

51) Overloaded with irony, playing fast and loose with audience sympathies and eerily prescient of the 1970 Kent State University shootings, the conclusion of Bonnie and Clyde revealed a lack of moral centre that was far removed from 1930s social-problem crime movies and the earnest offerings of the contemporary Hollywood establishment. (Pam Cook)

52) The movie Bonnie and Clyde openly targeted a teenage audience. It expresses the idolization of youth not only because of the naivete of the young and their bold judgment and unbiased criticism of the world, but also because youth under the cloud of Vietnam, may be eternal. (Arnon Gutfeld)

53) When the film was first released, the sensational finale provoked negative responses from some critics. Forty or so years later, it remains emotive, partly because of its position in the narrative as the culmination of the pair’s death drive, overriding the key scene in which they successfully make love for the first time. (Pam Cook)