Bonnie and Clyde: Making Huge Leaps and Bounds

         I went into this movie, Bonnie and Clyde, directed by Arthur Penn in 1967, knowing very little about the real life Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. I came out with a better sense of who Bonnie and Clyde were and also a better understanding of Hollywood’s embellishments and exaggerations as well a better understanding of cinematography for the 60’s.

         In 1943 Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were shot down by six men, finally ending scores of police chases through thousands of miles in the American Southwest, and started their legend. Clyde Barrow got his start in crime by running from police after not returning a rental car on time. His second arrest came with his brother, Buck, when the two of them stole turkeys. He was best known for robbing banks but actually preferred smaller jobs like robbing grocery stores.

         Bonnie Parker was an honor roll student in high school and excelled at creative writing. Bonnie married Roy Parker; but her relationship with him was short-lived; however, she never divorced and was still wearing his wedding ring on the day she died. She later met Clyde Barrow, and the two fell in love. Bonnie’s role in “The Barrow Gang” is reported to be limited to logistics.

         The 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde romanticizes the relationship and lives of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. In the film Bonnie and Clyde meet when Clyde attempts to steal Bonnie’s mother’s car. In reality they might have met at Bonnie’s friend’s house or the most prevalent answer that they met through Clyde’s friend Clarence Clay.

         The film also portrays Clyde as impotent but, according to him, straight. In real life Clyde Barrow was thought to be bisexual. The real Clyde Barrow was also not as handsome as Warren Beatty. Other exaggerations include the fact that Faye Dunaway is actually nine inches taller than Bonnie Parker. In one bank robbery scene Clyde allows a farmer to keep his own money and leave. In reality it was bank robber Charles Anthony Pretty Boy Floyd who had allowed a farmer to keep his money in a bank robbery.

         Even though there are obvious exaggerations, stretches, and misleading information in Bonnie and Clyde, it is still a great movie. The story of the real Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow was a great one, but not quite perfect for a Hollywood movie. The film stretches reality a bit but not in a way that takes away from the story or distorts it so much that truth is hard to spot. The film is very well done, and the stretches in reality are well worth it.

         The cinematography was interesting in this film. There was a great use of “jump cuts” that were prevalent in European cinematography. In the 1960 film Breathless, directed by Godard, jump cuts were used frequently. This film was made in 1959 and could have contributed to the use of jump cuts in Bonnie and Clyde. I worked at a news station, and the use of jump cuts was greatly frowned upon. However, I thought it was interesting to see them used so frequently in Bonnie and Clyde. It was distracting, yet not incorrect. I actually liked the use of jump cuts in the film even if they were a bit jarring for me.

         This film was made in the 60’s and was very susceptible for 60s culture. Hippies and Vietnam were something that could have had a profound impact on this film. Flower children could empathize with the film because it depicts Bonnie and Clyde as young adults trying to make a statement, but not being understood by the law. Bonnie and Clyde find acceptance in other people struggling to make ends meat. Hippies may have been attracted to this film for that reason, because they were likewise shunned by law and older adults, while being accepted by people in the same boat as them.

         Overall this is a great film, and I am glad I had the opportunity to watch it. I would recommend it to everyone. This film is one of the greatest of all time in my book and makes huge leaps and bounds in cinematography, plot, and romanticism.

Curt Stewart

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