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« Distant Relatives: Brief Encounter and Once | Main | The Two Maria Von Trapps »
Thursday
Mar292012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Bonnie & Clyde"

This week's episode of 'Best Shot' features one of my all time favorite films Bonnie & Clyde (1967). Even if you just want to look at one scene and stop you're pulled in, right into the cramped cars and you're along for the whole ride. It never stops until it's so bullet-riddled it can't get back up again. Few films have ever felt as alive as this classic. The most impressive thing about Bonnie & Clyde nearly a half century later is that it still feels electric. Is it the way it fuses 30s and 60s and in so doing transcends anything to do with "dates" of production? Is it how completely adult it is in tone despite the youthful abandon?

Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) meets Clyde (Warren Beatty) in the first scene and by the eight minute mark she's lept in his car for good. Because the movie moves so quickly we're doing the same. My choice for best shot comes right before this crucial decision. The couple have been flirting for roughly eight minutes of real time, and Bonnie is so hot for the beautiful thief that she's practically felating her coke bottle while staring at him. Bonnie expresses doubt that Clyde's a real criminal, essentially daring him to prove it, and he pulls out his gun.

But you wouldn't have the gumption to use it."

Naturally she, uh, strokes it. Such a perfect image for a movie about a love affair that's consummated through crime.

Their horny paired reaction shots to the gun stroking...


This movie is dirty.

Rather shockingly, they do not immediately tear each other's clothes off. It's not for lack of trying on Bonnie's part but Clyde is quicker to whip out his gun than his cock so a substitute it'll have to be.

In the casting alone the movie achieves greatness. It's hard to believe that the infamous loverboy Warren Beatty is an impotent charmer and Bonnie (Faye Dunaway, utterly brilliant) can't believe it either. She's angry and devastated. Bonnie and Clyde's unfulfilling sexual life paired with Faye & Warren's undeniable chemistry eroticizes the entire movie even when "sex" is not the subject.

The early gun stroking shot finds a brilliant counterpoint later in the film when Clyde can't get it up in a love scene and Bonnie roll over, away from him. Clyde isn't even in frame but his "gun" is.


The French call an orgasm "the little death" and this 1967 masterpiece channeling the French New Wave for America makes the same connections. From the minute Bonnie leaps in Clyde's stolen car, desperate to sex him up, she's a goner. In one terrific seemingly incongruous scene, the Barrow gang pick up a married couple and tease and taunt them until the man reveals that he's an undertaker. Bonnie clouds over, instantly demanding their rejection from the car. She knows that death is imminent. For her it's right there in the car.

The Best Shot Gang.
(Wanted in five states)

Antagony and Ecstasy has a smart post on the film's synthesizing of '60s pop culture.
Serious Film has a wonderful post that's more than just Bonnie & Clyde. It's that moment when you know it's coming.
The Film's The Thing looks at the people in the pictures, Depression era style.
Film Actually  Bonnie seeks solace in the oddest places
Pussy Goes Grrrr  "lust blossoming from small town tedium."

Next on "Hit Me..."
04/04 Easter Parade (1948)
04/11 Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) 

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Reader Comments (11)

what do you mean by fusing 30's and 60's?

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermed

Hey Nathaniel, I could have sworn I hit 'send' last night! Check your email for my submission. We were very similar it seems!

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

It's a shame Faye Dunaway can't get great parts anymore.... Quentin Tarantino needs to direct her a la Pam Grier or John Travolta.

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I saw this movie. It's very good, but not outright "great", mostly because Bonnie Parker comes across as more and more of an IDIOT the more you watch. Never tries to escape. Never tries to resist. Never tries to repent. Just sits there, blandly approving of Clyde's actions. The result is a biographical thriller that can't thrill not because of innaccuracy but because, well, she's doomed from the half hour point and they offer no evidence that she might even try to escape her obvious fate. Pretty to look at and mostly very well acted (except for Estelle Parsons who was way too shrill and shouldn't have WON the Oscar), but during it's flabby middle is pretty dull. Overall: B+. There's some really strong compelling A level parts amounting to 25 minutes (the opening twenty and the closing five for those curious) of screentime, but they're sandwiched between a dull middle stretch that only serves the purpose of 1. making Bonnie look increasingly stupid and 2. giving Estelle Parsons way too much screentime.

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Faye Dunaway was the last real star to come out of Hollywood. I miss her.

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

I guess I was too late?

http://filmactually.blogspot.com/2012/03/hit-me-with-your-best-shot-bonnie-and.html

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

god wasn't faye dunaway so great here

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkent

Kent -- yes.
Squasher -- not too late. I just wasn't at the computer all day.
med -- just that the film reads very contemporary with its film styles and stars and hair and particularly its fashion (which definitely fuses both eras) but it's also depicting the 30s.

March 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Just to make sure you got it, this post went up very late last night: http://pussygoesgrrr.com/2012/03/29/burning-bright/

I hit on some of the same points about innuendo and sexual tension -- it's pretty astonishing how sexy the not-quite-sex scenes still are, as well as how thoroughly Bonnie's carnal discontents are worked into the screenplay. (They're visible in the opening topless scene and carry straight through to the consummation, just before the grisly end.) Gunshots and orgasms are always pretty close equated here, and I love how that comes out in your best shot.

March 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterAndreas

That first shot totally gave me a boner.

March 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKoerich

sometime you really ought to look at the career of faye dunaway. very very interesting. what the fuck happened.

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy
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