According to Warren Beatty, Bonnie And Clyde’s core talent knew from the off that ’60s Hollywood needed its cage rattling. “Everyone connected with that movie had felt a little bit insulted by the movie business,” he says on this quality-haul double-disc set’s docs. “They knew they could do better…”
And they did. Arthur Penn’s classic movie tapped into Hollywood history, with his criminal lovers conceit stretching back to films such as You Only Live Once. It also rewrote the movie-rules on morality, sexuality, style and youth, drawing on French New Wave cool. Shooting down the studio doors to let in the auteurs, its gunshots still reverberate.
It wasn’t just violence that defined Bonnie And Clyde’s sea-change, so much as a marshalling of turbulent extremes into something that felt fresh and organic. Sex and violence, repression and the Depression, celebrity and scandal, humour and horror all tussle for space in the tale of impotent Clyde Barrow (Beatty), bored Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and a Depression in need of folk heroes.
But the leads aren’t everything. Just as important is the support ensemble (Gene Hackman, Michael J Pollard, Estelle Parsons), a surrogate family that made the film swing outside of its frontline as well as tweaking the Hollywood rulebook. It also gave anti-authoritarian audiences something to latch on to. Actors? Hell, these guys looked like normal folks!
Like that gang jammed in Clyde’s wagon, the docs here pack ’em in. Beatty, co-writers Robert Benton and Robert Towne, Hackman, Parsons, Penn, Pollard, costume ace Theadora Van Runkle and editor Dede Allen all gather and glow. So does Dunaway, after her conspicuous absence from Chinatown’s recent DVD. “We were working well,” she coos. That they were. Bonnie And Clyde shot fast and frisky for audiences quick enough to keep up. Even now, it plays hard, sexy, dark, funny, slick, never too tidy to ring true. And this is a nicely busy DVD for a revisit. First-time viewer? Well, woo-hoo: you’re gonna have yourself a time of it, boy…