Simon Waern 27/3 2014
FL1200 Film Sciences. Course module 2: Film History. Take home exam 2.
Essay question 4: Bonnie and Clyde.
Social and political critique and commentary in Bonnie and Clyde
“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 1
At the time of its release in 1967, Bonnie and Clyde was the subject of intense debate. While the American film critic Roger Ebert hailed it as a milestone in American moviemaking, Bosley Crowther, another critic, referred to it as “a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick
Comedy”. 2 It was called the sleeper hit of the decade, and gained extreme notoriety for its breakage of traditional cinematic taboos, in that it showed rather explicitly both sex and especially, raw and brutal violence. It greatly surprised both the audience and Hollywood itself, and has since its release been labelled as both a landmark film and as an iconic masterpiece of cinema.
[NB on it’s vs. its. It’s = short for “it is”. Read the sentence through – if “it is” doesn’t fit then you mean “its” not “it’s”]
But why did it cause such a stir, and why did it become such a massive hit especially among the younger generations of the audience? Well, As Roger Ebert wrote in his review for the movie, even though the story of the film was set 35 years earlier (than 1967), Bonnie and Clyde was in fact truly about the 1960’s America. The film dealt with themes and engaged with social and political issues that strongly marked and defined the America of the time and struck a chord with the people living in America in the 1960’s.
On the surface, Bonnie and Clyde, directed by Arthur Pen and co-written by David Newman and Robert Benton, might seem to be just another love on the run, individual versus institution film, a kind of film rather common during the time. Bonnie and Clyde are two petty criminals waging a heroic war against the corrupt institutions; the greedy banks who earn their living by constantly victimizing the poor. The two main characters are almost Robin Hood-like figures, anti-authority characters who defy the laws of society as champions of the poor but who are ultimately crushed by the raging fury of the law, but not before they’ve gained the respect and admiration of the people.
Within this rather traditional framework however, Bonnie and Clyde makes several compelling statements about 1960’s America. [This is too short to be a paragraph on its own.]
Violence almost defines Bonnie and Clyde. It runs like a silver thread through the entire film.
Graphic violence is today a rather common and somewhat natural characteristic of modern cinema, but before Bonnie and Clyde, it certainly was not. Arthur Penn introduced it in 1967. Before Bonnie and Clyde violence in film was hinted at or just implied through various sorts of acting techniques. Arthur Penn decided to show the audience the real, brutal and raw side to violence, using...