With new attention being drawn to the story, having spawned a History Channel miniseries, I thought it time to visit the acclaimed 1967 Bonnie and Clyde. Receiving large praise for its ingenuity and boldness, Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde can rightly be called a classic. It's a film ahead of its time in approach, style, and execution.
Watching Penn's Bonnie and Clyde, one might forget the way it redefined cinema for its time. This is a testament to how it has aged, being almost indistinguishable, and in many ways better, than modern films. The violence in this film is unflinching, not sanitized, but also not over-glamorized. The characterizations are surprisingly fresh and bold, casting two anti-heroes, both with deeply flawed personas and hints of even social taboos.
The film progresses at a brisk pace, yet never feels rushed. Penn guides the narrative in a way that feels organic and engaging, giving us necessary back-story, but never feeling the need to pander. The hallmark of the film is the central performances from Warren Beatty and Fay Dunaway. Both have a palpable chemistry, and both bring an enormous amount of charisma to the screen. Dunaway is perfect as the lonely, thrill-seeking, and self-destructive Bonnie Parker, and Beatty is superb as the vulnerable, yet dogged Clyde Barrow. These performances are set against strong action scenes, and within a script that emphasizes the characters, never attempting to force-thrills.
The one criticism of Penn's Bonnie and Clyde is the historical accuracy. To be sure, we expect liberties to be taken, and Penn's version is certainly more true than others, yet the film subscribes to some of the more dubious notions about the couple. The hints of Clyde's impotence, for example, seem to be a substitute for other questions regarding his sexuality, yet substance for this is lacking, with an actually and intense romantic relationship between the two being likely more accurate.
A strong film overall, largely befitting its classic status.