RogerBW's Blog

Bonnie and Clyde 05 July 2021

1967 crime, dir. Arthur Penn, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway: IMDb / allmovie. Bored girl meets bad man. Death ensues.

This was the film that Badlands inspired me to go back and watch: reviled by many contemporaneous critics for its gore and its glorification of unalloyedly bad people (the Production Code had only just been formally replaced by the MPAA rating system, though of course it had been largely ignored for some time), but rather more formative than Malick's piece in terms of the conventions of later film. (Though the messed-up sexuality shown here would generally be replaced later by enjoyable messed-up sexuality, at least enjoyable to the people involved, because that way you get to show a sex scene.)

What really struck me here was the performance from Dunaway, whom I'd only seen previously in the original Thomas Crown Affair where she didn't especially impress. Here she's able to get her teeth into the part and play probably the most complex character in the piece (though that's not a very high bar); to me that was exemplified by a late scene in which Bonnie asks Clyde what he'd do if they could start all over again, and his immediate response is "have my hideout the other side of a state border from the places I'm robbing". An armed robber is all Clyde is and all he can conceive of being (and Beatty plays him effectively as such)… and Bonnie, having committed herself to him and his activities, realises that there is no way out, and she's going to have to ride it to the end so she might as well do it with good grace. Dunaway doesn't get lines that express her reaction, and has to do it all with expressions and body language, but it's a superb piece of acting.

Once more if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

Tags: film reviews

See also:
The Thomas Crown Affair (I)
Badlands


  1. Posted by Chris Bell at 11:14am on 05 July 2021

    Never bothered to see the film (nasty people behave in a nasty way; meh, says adolescent self) but I vividly remember that after it came out, everyone at my school felt obliged to dress as if she were in it; and skirts that length and shape make ordinary women's legs as opposed to Faye Dunaway's legs look as if they were heavy furniture. Wearing such uncomfortable and unflattering clothes probably warped the worldview of a generation of female mid-teens, after the comparative freedom of the fifties and early sixties.

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