‘Bonnie & Clyde’ Retro Review


Director: Arthur Penn

Cast: Faye Dunaway, Warren Beatty, Gene Hackman, Michael J. Pollard, Estelle Parsons

Plot: When Bonnie catches Clyde in the act of trying to steal her mothers car, she takes the chance to escape her life as a waitress and take to roads with him, becoming his partner in crime. Based on the true story of Depression era bank robbers The Barrow Gang.

So I went to film school. It was rad. One thing I noticed in the first few weeks is that there’s a small list of films that everyone will assume you have seen, studied in depth and shared a passionate love affair with. Blade Runner. Raging Bull. Clerks. The complete filmography of Stanley Kubrick. Having come straight out of high-school it’s unlikely that you’ve seen all of them (but you mustn’t admit this!) unless you’re a massive geek.

I was a massive geek, but even some had slipped by me and been fermenting on my ‘must-watch’ list ever since. One of them got struck off this week: Bonnie & Clyde.

This movie is a classic for a reason. Without the crutches of current technology and effects the film-makers rely on pure talent to create a full-speed ride through the lives of these depression era bank robbers. The movie crackles with energy from start to finish. As the titular anti-heroes Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty still carry plenty of the star power generated by this picture. There is a pure magnetism between the characters that makes it impossible not to be drawn in to their adventure. At first they appear cool and charismatic, with weaknesses in character and psychological issues rearing later in the film. Whilst never spoken aloud, both Bonnie and Clyde are damaged people and it’s a testament to the actors ability that they never resort to overly-dramatic expositions about how they feel.

Whilst it is certainly worth noting the rest of the cast, especially Gene Hackman as Clyde’s hyperactive brother, this movie is all about Beatty and Dunaway.

Whether the movie is showing us a bank robbery in progress or a family picnic the viewer will never be bored. The sharp script couple with enigmatic characters and startling performances is enough to carry the movie no matter what part of the story is being revealed. If one scene does stand out it’s the highjacking and subsequent kidnapping of a young man (played by Gene Wilder) and his girlfriend and the unusual interaction that follows. It’s a singular moment that gives us an outsider’s perspective into the world of the Barrow Gang.

If there’s one scene that appears in every textbook, it’s the finale. The bloodsoaked conclusion to the film isn’t as extreme in its violence as movies we’ve grown up with, but the bursts of red are still startling. Any film student or movie buff needs to see this as a perfect example as to why excess or style doesn’t always result in a heavy impact for the viewer.

I would like to conclude by complaining about the lack of a really good remastered transfer. This would look astounding on Blu-Ray and is just itching to become a cult classic all over again.

NINE outta TEN