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"Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) Arthur Penn


By the late 1960s, Classical Hollywood films were declining in revenue due to censorship and films being unable to connect with their patrons. In response to the decline, director Arthur Penn created a milestone American film called “Bonnie and Clyde” and was influenced by European New Wave filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard from France and Ingmar Bergman from Sweden. This began a new chapter in American cinema as “New Hollywood”. This film is a milestone because the storyline is mixed with murder, comedy, romance, and violence. At first, film critics denounced the film, but after a while, critics gave it a second chance and this film was a start of a brand-new film era in American cinema, known as “New Hollywood”.


Based on a true story, this film recreated the criminal journey of how Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) ended up in the newspaper and robbed banks and killed people. The entire concept of showing gore, violence, gunfights, and robberies were horrifying to viewers as entertainment and some film critics believe at the time that the violence was “excessive” throughout the film. Additionally, viewers were so offended when this film blended in comedy to a story about two people that died and were killed. For example, the ending shoot-out scene, where police used bullets that caused Bonnie and Clyde to be blown to bits. That scene shocked viewers that bullets can be so destructive, making them even scarier than people thought they were at the time.


Although this film was from 1967, Penn successfully was able to set the scenes as rural Southwest America in the early 1930s. Throughout the film, there were several villages shown that looked very close to how it looked back when the actual murder and crime journey was taking place. Additionally, the wardrobe and props used looked brand new, despite them being nearly 35 years old at the time of the making of this film. The use of older props and wardrobe changed the forms of fashion in this film because the film puts the viewers minds into the generation of when the crimes took place.


As “Bonnie and Clyde” is 55 years old today, viewers realized that this is the first film that can` be used for the purposes of art. This is because the audience were standing on their toes and feeling disbelief for everything that went on that was never seen on screen before. Arthur Penn did a great job using cinematography to emphasize the mood and feelings of the film. As for example, a cloud sweeps across the field and shadows Bonnie and Clyde in a high, wide-angle shot to foreshadow something bad is about to happen. The interesting fact is that this was done naturally by nature.


Although this film had a lot of controversy in the beginning about the excessive violence at first, film critics and viewers finally realized that Arthur Penn was trying to formulate a new way how to create movies as well as earn more revenue from theater attendance. Following this film, other filmmakers in America continued to this day to create films like “Bonnie and Clyde” and today, films with excessive violence in America continue to be produced. As time evolved, viewers realize that “Bonnie and Clyde” is a film of influence because future American films between the late 60s and the 80s continued to blend in concepts from this landmark film.

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