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Bonnie & Clyde: Special Edition - Review

Bonnie & Clyde

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Revolution! The Making of Bonnie and Clyde consisting of three featurettes: Bonnie and Clyde’s Gang (22 mins); The Reality and Myth of Bonnie and Clyde (24 mins); Releasing Bonnie and Clyde (18 mins); Love and Death: A History Channel documentary about the real life Bonnie and Clyde (43:13); Warren Beatty’s Wardrobe Tests (7:39); Two deleted scenes: The Road To Mineola (2:06) and Outlaws (3:17).

UPON its release in 1967 Arthur Penn’s Bonnie & Clyde marked a defining moment in American cinema, as well as making household names of its stars, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. It’s testament to the film’s lasting power that it still shocks today.

First and foremost, audiences gasped at the raw brutality depicted on screen. The film was accused of glorifying violence, and sympathising with its murderous protagonists, whilst also being brave enough to examine sexual deviancy and the confused nature of celebrity.

That it did so from the point of view of two glamourous, poster-friendly Hollywood stars only made it more shocking… and thereby more appealing to audiences.

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker – unlike Butch & Sundance – were stone-cold killers who blazed a path of violence across central America during the Great Depression, together with their brother, his wife and a driver (who became known as the ‘Barrow Gang).

They were naive, perhaps, and caught up on their own celebrity. But they never gave a moment’s pause when it came to pulling the trigger. And likewise, Penn’s direction doesn’t stand on ceremony – rather, toying with established movie conventions of the time (including the more traditional narrative approach) and delivering a shot in the arm to cinema-goers not used to such a matter of fact, in-your-face approach.

And in its performances, it boasted career-defining turns from Beatty and Dunaway, not to mention memorable supporting turns from a young (but no less charismatic) Gene Hackman and a curiously straight-faced Gene Wilder.

Beatty, for his part, is a raging bull of a leading man, a volatile force of nature who becomes smitten with Bonnie the moment he first sets eyes upon her (staring naked at him from a bedroom window as he contemplates stealing a car).

In real life, Clyde Barrow was rumoured to be bisexual and Beatty – who also produces – was willing to play him that way, until director Penn talked him out of it and opted to make him impotent instead. Beatty, though, nails the awkwardness and frustration that comes with it – his sense of sexual unease a perfect foil to Dunaway’s rampant sexuality.

As for Dunaway herself, she’s a dynamic presence – a temptress every bit as dangerous and edgy as her partner-in-crime, who compels him to commit ever more audacious acts. Together, they’re a mesmerising presence.

Come the blood-soaked finale, both stars have skillfully created a couple of genuinely complex characters whose demise at the hands of equally ruthless lawmen was as shocking as it was inspiring to a new generation of directors (raning from Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch to Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers).

And if there’s any doubt surrounding Bonnie & Clyde‘s lasting cultural significance, then consider these few small bits of trivia: the film has been deemed a ‘culturally significant game changer’ that is now preserved in the National Film Registry; it was ranked as the 42nd greatest movie of all-time by the American Film Institute in 2007, while the movie’s line, “we rob banks”, was voted as the 41st best movie quote by the AFI (out of 100).

It also won two Oscars – for Estelle Parsons as best supporting actress – and Burnett Guffey – for cinematography – as well as attracting a further eight nominations. Dunaway also received a Bafta for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles.

The 40th anniversary 2-disc special edition, being released by Warner Home Video on May 5 (2008), boasts extras befitting its status, including a commentary by [writer] Robert Benton, Arthur Penn and Warren Beatty, as well as a History Channel documentary about the real life Bonnie and Clyde.

It adds up to a package that’s really not to be missed!