Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Gene Wilder (in his film debut)
Director: Arthur Penn
Summary: The legendary bank robbers run riot in the 1930’s South
Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Beatty), Actress (Dunaway), Supporting Actor (Hackman), Supporting Actor (Pollard), Supporting Actress (Parsons)*, Original Screenplay, Costume Design, Cinematography*
-This was a huge part of the wave (well, more like a tsunami) of films from this era that aggressively pushed the boundaries for what was acceptable content in a Hollywood film. The level of graphic violence on display was shocking for the time, especially in the level of blood shown (it was one of the first movie to make extensive use of squibs) combined with the fast-paced editing and cinematography that emphasized it; it was also a throwback to some of the pre-code gangster films that glorified the criminals, with Bonnie and Clyde as young attractive lovers fighting against the establishment (here, the banks who were foreclosing on farmers during the depression as well as the police). It’s success sent shockwaves through Hollywood and opened the door for a slew of other, even more violent mores.
-While the whole cast is solid (and everybody of note got Oscar nominations), the standout here is Faye Dunaway in her breakout performance. Dunaway is one of my long-time favorite actresses and I’ve liked her in most everything I’ve ever seen her in, and here she’s perfect as a model of reckless, impassioned, highly sexualized youth.
-Beyond just the cinematography making the violence impactful, it also does a wonderful job of capturing the look and feel of the depression-era South with its desolate plains and abandoned or dilapidated homes.
-There’s a ton of style here and a lot of historical significance, but in terms of substance from its story or characters, it’s middling. Some of the attempts to make it more than a simple reckless youth/gangster movie are half-baked, like their hatred of banks and police for being against the common man during the depression and Clyde’s impotence which are potentially interesting but not explored with a whole lot of depth.
-Legendary film critic Bosley Crowther was fired from the New York Times after 27 years on the job in 1967, and it’s generally agreed that this was due to his persistent and frequent negative comments on this film due to its content which made him look like he was out of touch with the modern filmgoer and the changing society in America.
I liked it for its abundant style, especially the art direction, cinematography, banjo music and editing, along with Dunaway’s performance. However, some of the meatier elements weren’t anything to write home about, and I tend to gravitate towards those kind of movies as a general rule.