Bonnie og Clyde
One of the
classical themes in American movies is the criminal couple who roam the country
stealing and shooting left and right. “Natural Born Killers” and “Thelma and
Louise” are some of the famous examples, but the mother of this sub-genre is “Bonnie
in 1967, “Bonnie and Clyde” was on the crest of the wave changing American
movies in those years. Heavily inspired by the French New Wave and exploiting
the dissolvement of the Hays code, director and producer were free to make a
wilder version of this story than would have been possible just a few years
earlier. The editing is very modern, there are sexual references that for its
time was surprisingly frank and the violence was brutal and visual in a way
that would have surprised audience in the day, though to a modern viewer perhaps
not so much. However, the theme and the progression of the story, meandering as
it is, are probably the major news from this movie.
(Faye Dunaway) and Clyde (Warren Beatty) meet up in the opening of the movie in
a love-at-first-sight moment. Bonnie is bored and need to get away and Clyde is
charming as hell. That he openly declares that he robs banks seems only to be a
plus. Off they go to rob some banks. On their way they pick up driver and
mechanic C.W. (Michael J. Pollard) and later on Clyde’s brother Buck (Gene
Hackman) and his wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), making a Barrow gang of five
members. While the guns and a few shots were always part of their modus
operandi, things become more serious when people start dying from their
shooting, especially policemen.
Most of the
movie is the gang constantly shooting their way out of the traps laid by the
police and to the credit of the movie none of that shooting is presented as
particularly glamorous. On the contrary, it is frighteningly real. People die
painful deaths or are wounded in horrible ways. Yet, “Bonnie and Clyde” also
dabbles in the comedic genre with silly scenes and bantering or serious scenes
that becomes involuntarily comic, such as robbing a bank that is already
bankrupt, or having sandwiches with the owners of the car they have just stolen.
I am not as confused by these changes in style and theme as it may appear, this
is after all almost a trope by now, but it is jarring in another way.
with “Bonnie and Clyde” is the theme itself. This sub-genre has never held any
appeal to me and I cannot get my head around the fascination there seems to be
with outlaw couples shooting their way through the land. I get that there is
something about ultimate freedom and anarchy and also an anti-authoritarian element,
but this is not Robin Hood fighting a cause, but simple criminals. That Clyde
is charming and Bonnie is pretty does not really change that. Getting to know
them does not make me sympathize with them, they only get pity from me,
something they seem incapable of toward their victims. In that sense, the lighter
tones of the movie feel almost insulting. When they die is a hail of gunfire I
am not as much horrified as sighing in relief that it is ended. As you may have
guessed I never seek out this type of movie if I can avoid it.
that there is no denying the production value in “Bonnie and Clyde”. Everything
technical is top notch. The pictures are gorgeous and knife sharp and makes me
appreciate the Blue-ray format. Acting performances all round are great. All
six main actors were nominated for the Academy award and Estelle Parsons won in
her category. But as mentioned above, the novelties in storytelling that this
movie introduced to American cinema is probably the greatest achievement of the
movie. You watch this movie and it does not look 52 years old.
surprised to find how many actors got their breakthrough with this movie. Faye
Dunaway, Gene Hagman and Gene Wilder were practically new to cinema and went on
to become some of the greatest names.
Only Warren Beatty was an established actor at the time but rather than
being a vehicle for him, “Bonnie and Clyde” is an ensemble movie that let all
of them stand out. It is not often that five actors get nominated from the same
who are into this genre this is a must-see. For us few who are not, we can at
least enjoy the technical achievements of “Bonnie and Clyde”.
I met a movie with this much praise. Wikipedia: “Wavelength is often listed as
one of the greatest underground, art house and Canadian films ever made”. The
Book: “… a vital, important and necessary work”. Both continue to reference a
lot of praise from elsewhere.
I can only
think, wow, this is going to be interesting.
When I was
a child television would only be available certain hours each day. Outside that
time there would only be a test signal. This would be a static image with a lot
of colors, a digital watch and a constant (and hideous) narrowband tone. You
could not look and listen to that for long, but it was used to ensure the fine
tuning of the pick up of the channel (a manual affair back then). This is also
a fairly precise description of “Wavelength”, except this goes on for 45
minutes, longer than I have ever endured the test signal.
spends 43 minutes looking into a room slowly zooming in on a picture on the
opposite wall, while a narrowband tone gradually increases in frequency from 50
Hz to 12 KHz.
a murder takes place in the room, but I never noticed.
Ah, I almost
forgot, in the beginning, before the tone starts, we get a highly distorted version
of Strawberry Fields.
Now I am
supposed to explain why this is a super important movie and a vital and
necessary watch, but I am stunned for words. I simply have no idea. Yet, having
an empty shell it is very easy to fill meaning into it. As we do not understand
we can try to give it meaning and make this scene full of nothing express
something profound. Beside the utter boredom watching this movie I was thinking
of being sucked into a black hole, that gradually the world gets smaller and
smaller, eventually becoming a singularity. Why not?
But then I
could also get some meaning out of the television test signal.
I would only recommend to those who love obscure art and masochists. There is a
reason we try to avoid narrowband tones in machinery.
I am a fan
of film noir. As a genre, film noir has all the elements that makes movies cool
and interesting to watch and the List has plenty of examples. By 1967 film noir
as a genre is passé and instead film noir is something you reference to. We
already had a very successful example in “Le Samourai” and “Point Blank” is another
unabashed love for the genre I am surprised to find that I did not love “Point
concern, I believe, is that “Point Blank” is so concerned with being “neo” that
the format detracts from the movie. Especially the first fifteen minutes of the
movie have such a messed-up chronology that I had to look up a plot summary to
find out what is actually happening. Then we have frequent jumps between an
inner vision, what is going on in Walker’s (Lee Marvin) head, and external
vision, our view. While probably intended to help us understanding his thinking,
they often make things very confusing. Still confusion is part of the game in a
film noir so I guess this is just a different take on it, confusing the viewer with
then get down to the actual story it is actually very simple. Walker joined his
friend Reese (John Vernon) and wife, Lynne (Sharon Acker) on an ambush on the
courier for a crime syndicate because Reese needed the money. Only, Reese and
Lynne double crossed him, took the money and left him for dead. Walker,
however, was not dead and now he wants his money.
One by one
Walker searches out members of a crime syndicate hierarchy. He finds Lynne who
kills herself, he kills Reese, then his superior and so on, all to get his money.
Each step reveals the next in a bloody treasure hunt. In this quest he gets
some assistance from Lynne’s sister, Chris (Angie Dickinson) who is somehow
revenge and his money, seem too simple. Is that really it? His background is
completely non-existent, was he criminal before the ambush? How did he become
an elite gangster, outsmarting an entire crime syndicate? And the reveal in the
end, what can we really use that for? It seems to indicate that Walker was
used, but is that really it. Not to mention the role Chris has in the plot.
Frankly, her only purpose is to be an unnecessary love interest for Walker.
Normally women have a pivotal role in film noir, but here Chris is just filler.
It is not
to say that this was a crap movie. Yes, it is pretentious, but there are also
very advanced elements that point forward. The griminess of the underworld is
very seventies and the realism in many of the takes has European New Wave
written all over it. The level of brutality in the action is also very… adult.
course it is impossible to hate a movie with Lee Marvin. He does bring some oomph
to any movie.
If you are
looking for a neo noir, pick “Le Samourai” first. Need more, sure, add some “Point
movies is one of the larger genres on the List and many of them are pretty
good. They typically fall into three categories: a) the horrors of prison, b)
escape from prison or c) both. “Cool Hand Luke” is both or maybe it is actually
none, because the story may be about something altogether different.
unspecified, years after second world war, Luke (Paul Newman) gets arrested for
cutting parking meters off their poles while drunk. I am not an expert in law,
but unless Luke is a repeat offender such a crime is a fine and a slap on the
hand. Not so in this story. Luke is sentenced to two years of hard labor in a
chain gang. A bit harsh.
gang is supposed to be somewhere in the South and is populated by mean ass
staff and a rowdy group of inmates. As is often the case in this type of movie
the staff appears to be far worse people than the prisoners. Their intent is
obviously to break the prisoners of their free will so they become manageable
and know their place. And here is the problem: Luke refuses to be broken and
get up every time he is beaten. Rules and regulations sit poorly with him. We
see that spelled out when Luke and Dragline (George Kennedy) has a boxing match.
No matter how often or how hard Dragline hits Luke, he keeps coming back up. He
simply refuses to give up. In the poker game and the legendary egg eating contest
Luke is so outside the norm that he gains the respect of the other inmates, especially
Dragline who becomes his close friend. Even the staff seems to respect Luke.
lasts till Luke starts running away. They always catch him eventually, but in
the process the prison warden and his staff are humiliated. Their projection of
being all powerful and untouchable are repeatedly shattered by Luke and their
attempts at breaking him are futile. That makes them manic with rage and their
revenge on Luke is gruesome.
is all about challenging the system. That it takes place in a prison is merely
a coincidence. Luke is the challenge and the prison staff cannot deal with the
challenge, because in their understanding they cannot be challenged. This makes
a lot of sense when you then consider that this is a 1967 movie, a time period
where the system, any system, is being challenged. It is early in that process
and the system fights back, but characters like Luke are rallying point for rebellion
against the system, whether it is the educational system, anti-war and arms
movements, women’s or minority rights and so on. The weaker part can bend but
not break and so the system eventually losses its moral high ground if it wants
to maintain that it cannot be challenged.
is phenomenal as Cool Hand Luke. He owns that role. But what is amazing here is
how the producers went out of their way to cast even minor roles. There are so
many characters in this prison, on both sides, that in no way all of them can
take an active part, yet every single one of them is a distinct individual with
a story and a personality. You feel there are plenty of stories here and we are
only scratching the surface. We are also getting a number of memorable scenes
and quotes, the most famous of which are probably the egg eating scene (at
which point I realized I actually saw this movie some time, ages ago) and the “This
is a failure to communicate”. A brilliant quote which transcends the movie and
describes the situation where the system reacts violently instead of talking
because talking would be to admit to being challenged.
course there is the beautiful filming which made me happy for my Blue-ray
edition. The vistas are set in stark contract to the dismal lives of the prisoners
and every scene is intelligently thought out.
Ekspert I drab
not that many samurai in this Jean-Pierre Melville movie, but that is okay
because we get an über-cool hitman in the shape of Alain Delon’s Jef Costello.
Costello goes around in his trench coat and fedora with an expressionless face and
economic movements. He rarely says anything but is focused to the exclusion of
all else. His apartment is as spartan as it gets and his only concession to
comfort is a birdcage with his little bird. Likely a picture on his own life.
Jef is a hitman and we see him execute his job in painstaking detail. Getting a
car, changing the license plates, getting a gun, securing an alibi and then,
finally, go the nightclub to shoot the target.
police move into action led by the superintendent (Francois Périer). Again, we
follow in painstaking detail how the procedure moves along and how they are
narrowing in on Jef Costello. Calling in the usual suspects, testing the alibis
and keeping Jef under surveillance.
Costello is betrayed by his clients as they fear he will lead the police to
them and so he is fighting off both police and gangsters with him the pastrami in
This is a slow-moving
movie. Over the 105 minutes running time not a lot is actually happening. The plot
is very narrow. That is not a problem at all because this is all about style
and coolness, and man, it is cool. Alain Delon, who is usually the pretty-boy
in French and Italian movies, manages to be so cool that he is practically
stylized. He is the epitome of a film noir character combined with a Sergio
Leone quiet hero and a Kobayashi cat like elegance. This is not James Bond
smooth. The Paris here is rainy and grey and the apartment is minimalistic and
barren. The powers that rule are ruthless and dark and in the shadows of jazz clubs,
things are happening that are only hinted at.
I watch this
and think “Blade Runner”. Maybe “Blade Runner” was heavily influenced by “The
Samourai” or maybe both borrowed deeply from the Film Noir heritage. When Jef
is wounded and treats himself in the kitchen it is exactly like watching
Harrison Ford do the same. The quietness broken by small monologues are also
copied as is the soundscape and the rainy grayness.
There is a
mystery in the night club pianist (Cathy Rosier). Is she actually together with
the gangsters? And what is her relations to them? Is she sympathetic to Jef? And
when he goes to shoot her there are no bullets in the gun, what does that
signify? There is also the unexplained relationship between Jef and the girl, Valérie
(Nathalie Delon), who provides him with alibi and is loyal to him in face of
adversary. There are layers here that are only hinted at that makes the simple
story a lot more interesting than it appears.
who tries diligently to uncover the mystery only sees very little of what goes
on. When they take Jef in the end they realize they have uncovered nothing at
this movie a lot more than I thought I would, and a lot more than it seems to
deserve. The style and the depth are tremendous assets and I cannot recommend this
movie enough. It you, like me, is a long-time fan of “Blade Runner” and Film
Noir then this is a must-see movie.