Thursday, April 1, 2010

Eng 339: Bonnie and Clyde

The separation of cultures in Bonnie and Clyde was interesting, to say the least. You've got a story set in the 30's, told by people in the 60's, and watched by people in the 0ughts. At this point in the class, I feel as though I understand the 30's part better than the 60's, but the influence of both are here.
I sometimes think of history as a great big game of telephone. We have a certain perception of the 30's - gangsters, bank robbers, corrupt cops, destitute families and hoboes. This is the same perception that they had in the 60's, so that was in their movies. We see their movies, and that is the perception that we get of the past, and that is what goes into our movies.
After all, before this class, how many of us had seen an actual movie from the 30's, and how many of us had ideas about the 30's based on movies set in them, but made in the 60's, 70's, 80's 90's - and tinted with their own time period?
We all noticed the prevalence of 60's style in Bonnie and Clyde. Bonnie's hair bump and her makeup, the cut of her dress, even the type of face she had was indicative of the 60's ideal of beauty. C.W. Moss even looked a bit like a 60's grease monkey, with his jacket and slightly too-tight jeans.
This is slightly biased for me though, because I had seen the actor before in a great movie called The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (which is hilarious and everyone should see it) where he played almost the exact same character except his nose was perpetually running and he had a bit part.
Anyway, my point, which I have taken some time getting to, is that Bonnie and Clyde is almost immediately recognizable as a 60's film - not just because of the style but because the tone of the film was completely different than in films from the 30's. In the 30's, they were in the midst of a crisis, and the movies were an escape from the desolation of the decade. In the 60's, they were in the midst of an identity crisis and the movies were an attempt to define themselves.
There was a movie made last year, Public Enemies, that was about gangsters too. Of course, I'm too close to this one to make flippant declarations about the subconscious context of the film, but I can tell you that it's not the same as 1931's Public Enemy, nor is it the same as 1967's Bonnie and Clyde. It may be about the 30's, but it tells a story about our generation. We just can't see it yet.


  1. Very interesting ideas, Fawn. Bonnie and Clyde captures something about the 1960s in a way that a lot of supposedly contemporary movies of that era don't manage to do. We won't know what Public Enemies says about this era for a while, as you say.

  2. I thought it was interesting that you brought up the issue of the time period and the 60s-ness of the film as a whole. I think "Bonnie & Clyde" is a great movie, one of my favorites, and I remember reading a review by Roger Ebert of it and he said something about how the film could have taken place anytime, because it had to take place sometime. I think in a way, even though the film is about people and events from the 30s, it represents the 60s time period more because of how it was filmed, and the perspective that influenced it. Most films set in a specific older period lack that sense of timelessness I think.