Bored waitress Bonnie Parker falls in love with an ex-con named Clyde Barrow and together they start a violent crime spree through the country, stealing cars and robbing banks.
Ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary, here we have one of the defining films of the Hollywood New Wave: 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde. Old Hollywood had no goddamn idea how to react when this film came out and that’s wonderful.
For those unfamiliar, Bonnie and Clyde became the voice of a generation. Or, rather, it helped to really launch those voices into the public eye. Directed by Arthur Penn, Bonnie and Clyde was a film where the audience was rooting for what are the stereotypical “bad guys”. This film had people rooting for bank robbers and murderers. The police, the authority, they were the bad guys (Looking at this now, it’s like, “Well, yeah. Duh”). This film, upon its release, spoke to an entire generation of people on the brink of an uprising. Even now, this film is relevant. Despite its lack of diversity, I honestly think this film, if shown in theaters today, would be just as empowering. Now, the obvious downside to this is that our “heroes” die in the end, in a shoot-out of epic proportions. Up to you to decide what that means about the message of the film.
Clyde Barrow, as depicted by Warren Beatty, is an interesting fellow. It’s established fairly early on in the film that Clyde is, in fact, impotent. From there, the suggestion is made that Clyde’s gun has replaced his penis. Furthermore, the lack of emphasis on a sexual relationship between Bonnie and Clyde can be jarring, as that is what we are accustomed to, even in those days. Ultimately, when our main characters do finally consummate their relationship, they are killed shortly after. Again, take from that what you will.
The film itself, visually, is beautiful. Arthur Penn did a phenomenal job at capturing the southern United States. Add in the blue-grass music, and a pretty picture has been painted.
Other than Warren Beatty as Clyde and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman, and Estelle Parsons play the other members of the Barrow Gang. Gene Wilder also made his film debut, playing Eugene Grizzard, one of the Barrow Gang’s hostages. Everyone gives a superb performance.
This film shook the film industry. It prompted other filmmakers to explore more with sex and violence, and their films were taken seriously. Without this film, would we be where we are today with expression in film? I mean, probably. But, it would have taken us longer to get there.