In December 1967 Time magazine announced a ‘renaissance’ in American film culture exemplified by Bonnie and Clyde. Critically assess the film, its impact and legacy. American film industry has been having crisis since the end of World War II. However, the most severe crisis started in the post-war years and culminated in the period of the late 60s and early 70s when the Big Hollywood Studios came to the brink of bankruptcy. In 1967, when Bonnie and Clyde was produced and released, it brought the American film industry into a new era which resulted in a Hollywood renaissance that reached its peak in the mid-seventies.
As a consequence, directors were suddenly became the centre of the American filmmaking industry, and several studios, such as Warner Brothers and Columbia, ‘responded by creating low-budget production units dedicated to producing the work of exciting new talents like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Peter Bogdanovich. ’ (Miller, 2005) The term ‘New Hollywood’ was introduced after the success of Bonnie and Clyde. In the meantime, Bonnie and Clyde is considered as one of the first of the ‘New Hollywood’ era.
New Hollywood (or also known as Hollywood Renaissance) films like Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Graduate (1967), and Easy Rider (1969) marked symbolised a return to a truly American Cinema. Moreover, the films’ artistic sensibilities brought them closer to their European counterparts. In effect, the period of the late 60s and early 70s signalled a rebirth of the American Film and paved the way for what is now called New Hollywood. Bonnie and Clyde is an American crime film directed by Arthur Penn and was released in 1967.
The film stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the title Characters Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. The film received attacks by the critics from around the globe when it first released on cinema in August. By November Bonnie and Clyde has become the most popular film of the year. According to Cook, the film has become so popular that ‘its protagonists became cult figures. Double-breasted suits and fedora hats of the type worn by Clyde were all the rage in men’s clothing, and Bonnie’s thirties hemlines temporarily banished the miniskirt from the world of women’s fashion.
You could even buy transparent decals with which to simulate bullet holes on the windshield of your car in imitation of a famous shot from the film. ’ (Cook, 1981) Bonnie and Clyde is a violent gangster film combining comedy, terror, love, and ferocious violence. The story talks about two gangsters, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Bonnie Parker met Clyde Barrow when Clyde was trying to steal her mother’s car. Almost immediately, Bonnie abandons her dreams of becoming a movie star and takes off on a whirlwind tour of Depression-era Texas, where they become legendary bank robbers.
As their fame grows, so does their gang with the addition of gas station attendant C. W. Moss and Clyde’s brother and sister-in-law. But with their growing notoriety as modern-day Robin Hoods and murderers comes the increasing threat of a fatal run-in with the law. After a heart-breaking visit with Bonnie’s family, in which she realises that she literally can’t go home again, they are caught in a series of ever-more-deadly ambushes that decimate the Barrow Gang and threaten to end the legend of Bonnie and Clyde. This film is based on the true event and people.
Bonnie and Clyde were well-known outlaws, robbers, and criminals who travelled the Central United States with their gang during the Great Depression. Bonnie and Clyde became very popular among the society is because it depicts the story of Bonnie and Clyde’s rise and self-destructive fall as anti-authoritarian criminal gangsters. ‘Their targets are not the common people but the avaricious banks and the armies of police that protect types of the anti-establishment heroes who have become to dominate so many American films since, and they resonated perfectly with the revolutionary tenor of the late sixties. (Cook, 1981) The film, with many opposing moods and shifts in tone, is a cross between gangster film, tragic-romantic traditions, a road film and buddy film, and comedy. Furthermore, it ‘exemplified many of the characteristics of experimental film-making from the French New Wave movement. ’ (Dirks, 2003) In the meantime, the advertising poster proclaimed Bonnie and Clyde as “They’re young…they’re in love…and they kill people. ” The film also depicts this two outlaw couples not just being killed at the end, but they were destroyed, because Bonnie and Clyde were shot tragically. Even today the sequence has an almost unbearable intensity because our dramatic identification with the characters is so complete. ’ (Cook, 1981) In the late 1960s, the film’s sympathetic, revolutionary characters and its social criticism appealed to anti-authority American youth who were part of the counter-cultural movement protesting the Vietnam War, the corrupt social order, and the U. S. government’s role. The outlaw couple’s robberies of banks, was viewed somewhat sympathetically by the rural dispossessed, during the time when the institutions were ‘robbing’ and ruining indebted. The robberies of the glamorous, thrill-seeking young couple – mostly innocent and minor at the beginning of their crime spree, unfortunately escalate into more violent and murderous escapades. ’ (Dirks, 2003) Pauline Kael, an American film critic, also appreciated the film and applauded the violence as central to its meaning. She says in her review: “It is a kind of violence that says something to us; it is something that artists must be free to use... Will we, as some people have suggested, be lured into imitating the violent crimes of Clyde and Bonnie because Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are ‘glamorous’?
It’s difficult to see how, since the characters they play are horrified by it and ultimately destroyed by it…Bonnie and Clyde needs violence, violence is its meaning. ” (Harris, 2008) The impact of violence in the movie was confirmed by the ensuing successes of Badlands (1973). Badlands is also a movie about an outlaw couple which based on the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree of the 1958, starring a fifteen-year-old girl and her twenty-five-year-old boyfriend slaughtered her entire family and several others in the Dakota badlands. Easy Rider (1969) is also one of Bonnie and Clyde legacy.
It talks about two countercultural bikers who travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans in search of America. The Wild Bunch (1969) adapted the violence in Bonnie and Clyde, depicted by an aging group of outlaws who look for one last big score as the ‘traditional’ American West is disappearing around them. Other than that, Thelma & Louise (1991) transformed ‘outlaw couple’ into two feminine, also known as Thelma and Louise. They both had a life and one day they decided to break out of their normal life and jump in the car and hit the road.
Louise killed a man who threatens to rape Thelma during the journey, and soon they were hunted by the American police while they try to escape to Mexico. Without a doubt, Bonnie and Clyde is a great and important film after almost fifty years of release. It has been called ‘the first American film’ and ‘its influences can easily be traced into the future works of acclaimed directors like Terrence Malik, Martin Scorsese, Sam Peckinpah, and Quentin Tarantino. ’ (Koban, 2004) The film was able to make critics think twice, spark fashion trends, and start a new revolution within Hollywood.
Along with many other anti-establishment movements, Bonnie and Clyde began an anti-establishment movement within the film industry. ‘The younger generation related to the deeper meaning of Bonnie and Clyde while the older generation rejected yet another attack on their traditional values and ideals. ’ (Emma, 2005) References Cook, D. A. , 1981. A history of narrative film. Norton, New York. Dirks, T. , 2003. Bonnie and Clyde (1967). URL http://www. filmsite. org/bonn. html (accessed 12. 4. 12). Emma, 2005. Bonnie and Clyde Paper | Emma’s History Portfolio.
URL http://299history. umwblogs. org/history-portfolio/history-299/bonnie-and-clyde-paper/ (accessed 12. 5. 12). Harris, M. , 2008. Pictures at a revolution? : five movies and the birth of the new Hollywood. Penguin Press, New York. Koban, C. J. , 2004. BONNIE AND CLYDE. URL http://www. craigerscinemacorner. com/Reviews/bonnie_and_clyde. htm (accessed 12. 6. 12). Miller, F. , 2005. The Essentials - Bonnie and Clyde Turner Classic Movies. URL http://www. tcm. com/this-month/article/24133|24134/The-Essentials-Bonnie-and-Clyde. html (accessed 12. 5. 12).