pauline kael bonnie and clyde

Is the charge based on the notion that simply by their presence in the movie Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway make crime attractive? That slap, saying that only idiots would laugh at pain and death, that a child must develop sensibility, is the same slap that Bonnie and Clyde delivers to the woman saying “It’s a comedy.” In “The Left Handed Gun,” the slap is itself funny, and yet we suck in our breath; we do not dare to laugh. A brutal new melodrama is called Point Blank, and it is. The toughness about what we’ve come out of and what we’ve been through—the honesty to see ourselves as the Yahoo children of yokels—is a good part of American popular art. © 2021 Scraps from the Loft. Did people in the cities listen to the Eddie Cantor show? O’Neill undoubtedly felt this when he had James Tyrone get up to turn off the lights in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” We are bumpkins, haunted by the bottle of ketchup on the dining table at San Simeon. People so simple that they are alienated from the results of their actions—like the primitives who don’t connect babies with copulation—provide a kind of archetypal comedy for us. Our experience as we watch it has some connection with the way we reacted to movies in childhood: with how we came to love them and to feel they were ours—not an art that we learned over the years to appreciate but simply and immediately ours. That turns into another way of making “prestigious,” “distinguished” pictures. To be put on is to be put on the spot, put on the stage, made the stooge in a comedy act. If the popular audience is generally uninterested in the director (unless he is heavily publicized, like de Mille or Hitchcock), the audience that is interested in the art of movies has begun, with many of the critics, to think of movies as a directors’ medium to the point where they tend to ignore the contribution of the writers—and the directors maybe almost obscenely content to omit mention of the writers. They’ll bury them side by side; Movie audiences have been getting a steady diet of “black” comedy since 1964 and Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Our best movies have always made entertainment out of the anti-heroism of American life; they bring to the surface what, in its newest forms and fashions, is always just below the surface. Director: Arthur Penn | Stars: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman. Some did champion the movie, including leading voices like Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael. “We have a right to live,” Joan says as they set out across the country. The no-talent has as much right to produce works as the artist has, and not only because he has a surprising way of shifting from one category to the other but also because men have an inalienable right to be untalented, and the law should not discriminate against lousy “artists.” I am not saying that the violence in Bonnie and Clyde is legally acceptable because the film is a work of art; I think that Bonnie and Clyde, though flawed, is a work of art, but I think that the violence in The Dirty Dozen, which isn’t a work of art, and whose violence offends me personally, should also be legally defensible, however morally questionable. But this kind of intuition isn’t enough to make an actor, and in a number of roles Beatty, probably because he doesn’t have the technique to make the most of his lines in the least possible time, has depended too much on intuitive non-acting—holding the screen far too long as he acted out self-preoccupied characters in a lifelike, boringly self-conscious way. It made no impact on the postwar audience, though it was a great success in England, where our moldy socially significant movies could pass for courageous. To few it’ll be grief— Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy. “We” didn’t make Clyde a killer; the movie deliberately avoids easy sympathy by picking up Clyde when he is already a cheap crook. The issue is always with us, and will always be with us as long as artists find stimulus in historical figures and want to present their versions of them. – Ad campaign for Bonnie and Clyde. But why didn’t movie critics attack, for example, “A Man for All Seasons”—which involves material of much more historical importance—for being historically inaccurate? There was something smart about him—something shrewdly private in those squeezed-up little non-actor’s eyes—that didn’t fit the clean-cut juvenile roles. In 1967, the movie-makers know that the audience wants to believe—maybe even prefers to believe—that Bonnie and Clyde were guilty of crimes, all right, but that they were innocent in general; that is, naïve and ignorant compared with us. A new generation enjoyed seeing the world as insane; they literally learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. “Bonnie and Clyde” keeps the audience in a kind of eager, nervous imbalance—holds our attention by throwing our disbelief back in our faces. Instead of the movie spoof, which tells the audience that it doesn’t need to feel or care, that it’s all just in fun, that “we were only kidding,” Bonnie and Clyde disrupts us with “And you thought we were only kidding.”. A brutal new melodrama is called “Point Blank,” and it is. In interviews, Penn makes high, dull sounds—more like a politician than a movie director. And because the element of the ridiculous that makes the others so individual has been left out of her character she doesn’t seem to belong to the period as the others do. When I asked a nineteen-year-old boy who was raging against the movie as “a cliché-ridden fraud” if he got so worked up about other movies, he informed me that that was an argument ad hominem. Such people see “Bonnie and Clyde” as a danger to public morality; they think an audience goes to a play or a movie and takes the actions in it as examples for imitation. In 1958, in I Want to Live! It is, however, a tribute to his performance that one singles this failure out. . 1967 ... Dir: Arthur Penn Arthur Penn’s New Hollywood masterpiece follows the criminal exploits of Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway), Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and the rest of the Barrow gang in the Depression-era Midwest. The toughness about what we’ve come out of and what we’ve been through—the honesty to see ourselves as the Yahoo children of yokels—is a good part of American popular art. “Bonnie and Clyde” is not a serious melodrama involving us in the plight of the innocent but a movie that assumes—as William Wellman did in 1931 when he made “The Public Enemy,” with James Cagney as a smart, cocky, mean little crook—that we don’t need to pretend we’re interested only in the falsely accused, as if real criminals had no connection with us. “Bonnie and Clyde” brings into the almost frighteningly public world of movies things that people have been feeling and saying and writing about. (This doesn’t quite work, either; audiences sophisticated enough to enjoy a movie like this one are too sophisticated for the dramatic uplift of the triumph over impotence.). How do you make a good movie in this country without being jumped on? ), Just how contemporary in feeling “Bonnie and Clyde” is may be indicated by contrasting it with “You Only Live Once,” which, though almost totally false to the historical facts, was told straight. To revisit this article, select My⁠ ⁠Account, then View saved stories. The movies may set styles in dress or lovemaking, they may advertise cars or beverages, but art is not examples for imitation—that is not what a work of art does for us—though that is what guardians of morality think art is and what they want it to be and why they think a good movie is one that sets “healthy,” “cheerful” examples of behavior, like a giant all-purpose commercial for the American way of life. We did not want her to be ordinary-looking. A simple frozen frame might have been more appropriate. It is a kind of violence that says something to us; it is something that movies must be free to use. Despite the new notion that the direction is everything, Penn can’t redeem bad material, nor, as one may surmise from his “Mickey One,” does he necessarily know when it’s bad. Why the protests, why are so many people upset (and not just the people who enjoy indignation), about Bonnie and Clyde, in which the criminals are criminals—Clyde an ignorant, sly near psychopath who thinks his crimes are accomplishments, and Bonnie a bored, restless waitress-slut who robs for excitement? The role of Clyde Barrow seems to have released something in him. Will we, as some people have suggested, be lured into imitating the violent crimes of Clyde and Bonnie because Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are “glamorous”? I would suggest that when a movie so clearly conceived as a new version of a legend is attacked as historically inaccurate, it’s because it shakes people a little. In the late forties, there were “They Live by Night,” with Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell, and “Gun Crazy,” with John Dall and Peggy Cummins. They look at the world and blame the movies. It concludes: That they did capture the public imagination is evidenced by the many movies based on their lives. Why attack “Bonnie and Clyde” more than the other movies based on the same pair, or more than the movie treatments of Jesse James or Billy the Kid or Dillinger or Capone or any of our other fictionalized outlaws? Yet when it comes to movies people get nervous about acknowledging that there must be some fun in crime (though the gleam in Cagney’s eye told its own story). But people also feel uncomfortable about the violence, and here I think they’re wrong. And how odd it is now to read, ” Dr. Strangelove would be a silly, ineffective picture if its purpose were to ridicule the characters of our military and political leaders by showing them as clownish monsters—stupid, psychotic, obsessed.” From Dr. Strangelove it’s a quick leap to MacBird! When Ford’s Western evocations fail, they become languorous; when they succeed, they are the West of our dreams, and his Lincoln, the man so humane and so smart that he can outwit the unjust and save the innocent, is the Lincoln of our dreams, as the Depression of “Bonnie and Clyde” is the Depression of our dreams—the nation in a kind of trance, as in a dim memory. From her rave of "Bonnie and Clyde" to her dismissal of "Chloe in the Afternoon," here are choice quotes from some of Kael's best reviews. Bonnie and Clyde and their partners in crime are comically bad bank robbers, and the backdrop of poverty makes their holdups seem pathetically tacky, yet they rob banks and kill people; Clyde and his goodnatured brother are so shallow they never think much about anything, yet they suffer and die. It is, however, a tribute to his performance that one singles this failure out. I wish the script hadn’t provided the upbeat of the hero’s sexual success as a kind of sop to the audience. She was one of the most influential American film critics of her era. Once something enters mass culture, it travels fast. Suddenly, in the last few years, our view of the world has gone beyond “good taste.” Tasteful suggestions of violence would at this point be a more grotesque form of comedy than Bonnie and Clyde attempts. To be put on is to be put on the spot, put on the stage, made the stooge in a comedy act. Though the American derision of the past has many offensive aspects, it has some good ones, too, because it’s a way of making fun not only of our forebears but of ourselves and our pretensions. (The scene that shows the gnomish gang member called C. W. sleeping in the same room with Bonnie and Clyde suggests other possibilities, perhaps discarded, as does C. W.’s reference to Bonnie’s liking his tattoo.) It’s only three years since Lewis Mumford was widely acclaimed for saying about Dr. Strangelove that “unless the spectator was purged by laughter he would be paralyzed by the unendurable anxiety this policy, once it were honestly appraised, would produce.” Far from being purged, the spectators are paralyzed, but they’re still laughing. Some of the best American movies show the seams of cuts and the confusions of compromises and still hold together, because there is enough energy and spirit to carry the audience over each of the weak episodes to the next good one. The role of Clyde Barrow seems to have released something in him. Still, that woman near me was saying “It’s a comedy” for a little too long, and although this could have been, and probably was, a demonstration of plain old-fashioned insensitivity, it suggests that those who have attuned themselves to the “total” comedy of the last few years may not know when to stop laughing. The targets have usually been social and political fads and abuses, together with the heroes and the clichés of the just preceding period of filmmaking. But if women who are angry with their husbands take it out on the kids, I don’t think we can blame “Medea” for it; if, as has been said, we are a nation of mother-lovers, I don’t think we can place the blame on “Oedipus Rex.” Part of the power of art lies in showing us what we are not capable of. They gained money, fame, and – although they could never know this – immortality. Total laughter carried the day. The Barrow gang had both family loyalty and sex appeal working for their legend. Some of the best American movies show the seams of cuts and the confusions of compromises and still hold together, because there is enough energy and spirit to carry the audience over each of the weak episodes to the next good one. And because they understood that you don’t express your love of life by denying the comedy or the horror of it, they brought out the poetry in our tawdry subjects. In the past, directors used to say that they were no better than their material. (This may help to make her popular; she can seem prettier to those who don’t recognize prettiness except in the latest styles.) Here the script seems weak. When Bonnie tells Clyde to pull off the road—“I want to talk to you”—they are in a getaway car, leaving the scene of a robbery, with the police right behind them, but they are absorbed in family bickering: the traditional all-American use of the family automobile. And though what we’ve always been told will happen to them—that they’ll come to a bad end—does seem to happen, some part of us wants to believe in the tiny possibility that they can get away with it. It may, on the contrary, so sensitize us that we get a pang in the gut if we accidentally step on a moth. And how odd it is now to read, “ ‘Dr. The quick panic of Bonnie and Clyde looking at each other’s face for the last time is a stunning example of the art of editing. The joke in the glamour charge is that Faye Dunaway has the magazine-illustration look of countless uninterestingly pretty girls, and Warren Beatty has the kind of high-school good looks that are generally lost fast. The audience is alive to it. In some cases, I think, the writing and the conception of the scenes are better (potentially, that is) than the way the scenes have been directed and acted. Though one cannot say of “Bonnie and Clyde” to what degree it shows the work of Newman and Benton and to what degree they merely enabled Penn to “express himself,” there are ways of making guesses. But Arthur Penn doesn’t quite have the toughness of mind to know it; it’s not what he means by poetry. It’s difficult to see how, since the characters they play are horrified by it and ultimately destroyed by it. I have suggested elsewhere that one of the reasons that rules are impossible in the arts is that in movies (and in the other arts, too) the new “genius”—the genuine as well as the fraudulent or the dubious—is often the man who has enough audacity, or is simpleminded enough, to do what others had the good taste not to do. There is a story told against Beatty in a recent Esquire—how during the shooting of “Lilith” he “delayed a scene for three days demanding the line ‘I’ve read “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov” ’ be changed to ‘I’ve read “Crime and Punishment” and half of “The Brothers Karamazov.” ’ ” Considerations of professional conduct aside, what is odd is why his adversaries waited three days to give in, because, of course, he was right. Oddly enough, Pauline Kael—Crowther's. There are few memorable violent moments in American movies, but there is one in Penn’s first film: Billy’s shotgun blasts a man right out of one of his boots; the man falls in the street, but his boot remains upright; a little girl’s giggle at the boot is interrupted by her mother’s slapping her. He’s in the tradition of the mustachioed heavy who foreclosed mortgages and pursued heroines in turn-of-the-century plays, and this one-dimensional villainy belongs, glaringly, to spoof. Furthermore, in some difficult-to-define way, Faye Dunaway as Bonnie doesn’t keep her distance—that is to say, an actor’s distance—either from the role or from the audience. But Clyde is not the urban sharpster of The Public Enemy; he is the hick as bank robber—a countrified gangster, a hillbilly killer who doesn’t mean any harm. To mark the occasion, a documentary, American Desperadoes: The Story of Bonnie and Clyde (Russell Leven 1999), was released. One photograph shows slim, pretty Bonnie, smiling and impeccably dressed, pointing a huge gun at Clyde’s chest as he, a dimpled dude with a cigar, smiles back. In 1967, this kind of sentimentality wouldn’t work with the audience, and Bonnie and Clyde substitutes sexual fulfillment for a change of heart. She has some talent, but she comes on too strong; she makes one conscious that she’s a willing worker, but she doesn’t seem to know what she’s doing—rather like Bonnie in her attempts to overcome Clyde’s sexual difficulties. Her attitude toward her mother is too loving. It is a peculiarity of our times—perhaps it’s one of the few specifically modern characteristics—that we don’t take our stories straight anymore. The movie becomes dreamy-soft where it should be hard (and hard-edged). It is a horror that seems to go on for eternity, and yet it doesn’t last a second beyond what it should. Such people see Bonnie and Clyde as a danger to public morality; they think an audience goes to a play or a movie and takes the actions in it as examples for imitation. The brutality that comes out of this innocence is far more shocking than the calculated brutalities of mean killers. It’s difficult to know how Bonnie should have been played, because the character isn’t worked out. “The Left Handed Gun,” with Paul Newman as an ignorant Billy the Kid in the sex-starved, male-dominated Old West, has the same kind of violent, legendary, nostalgic material as “Bonnie and Clyde;” its script, a rather startling one, was adapted by Leslie Stevens from a Gore Vidal television play. Though the American derision of the past has many offensive aspects, it has some good ones, too, because it’s a way of making fun not only of our forebears but of ourselves and our pretensions. It’s difficult to know how Bonnie should have been played, because the character isn’t worked out. But, because of the quality of American life at the present time, perhaps there can be no real comedy—nothing more than stupidity and “spoof”—without true horror in it. Yet any movie that is contemporary in feeling is likely to go further than other movies—go too far for some tastes—and “Bonnie and Clyde” divides audiences, as “The Manchurian Candidate” did, and it is being jumped on almost as hard. During the time they are on the run, they become notorious outlaws; they are blamed for a series of crimes they didn’t commit. Actors and actresses are usually more beautiful than ordinary people. And it is indeed. Save this story for later. It concludes: Someday they’ll go down together; But even for that group there is an excitement in hearing its own private thoughts expressed out loud and in seeing something of its own sensibility become part of our common culture. But it is in other ways that Penn’s limitations show—in his excessive reliance on meaning-laden closeups, for one. Depression people, of legend—with faces and poses out of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans and Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. How do you make a good movie in this country without being jumped on? Good roles do that for actors. Auden has written, “Our judgment of an established author is never simply an aesthetic judgment. Structurally, Bonnie and Clyde is a story of love on the run, like the old Clark GableClaudette Colbert It Happened One Night but turned inside out; the walls of Jericho are psychological this time, but they fall anyway. . If this way of holding more than one attitude toward life is already familiar to us—if we recognize the make-believe robbers whose toy guns produce real blood, and the Keystone cops who shoot them dead, from Truffaut’s “Shoot the Piano Player” and Godard’s gangster pictures, “Breathless” and “Band of Outsiders”—it’s because the young French directors discovered the poetry of crime in American life (from our movies) and showed the Americans how to put it on the screen in a new, “existential” way. Strangelove,” chortling over madness, did not indicate any possibilities for sanity. So are most of the new movies. It is a supreme asset for actors and actresses to be beautiful; it gives them greater range and greater possibilities for expressiveness. The distancing of the sixties version shows the gangsters in an already legendary period, and part of what makes a legend for Americans is viewing anything that happened in the past as much simpler than what we are involved in now. There wouldn’t be the popular excitement there is about outlaws if we didn’t all suspect that—in some cases, at least—gangsters must take pleasure in the profits and glory of a life of crime. And they rarely have the visual sense or the training to make good movie directors. Once something enters mass culture, it travels fast. Those too young to remember the Depression have heard about it from their parents. Faye Dunaway has a sixties look anyway—not just because her eyes are made up in a sixties way and her hair is wrong but because her personal style and her acting are sixties. The tragedy of “Macbeth” is in the fall from nobility to horror; the comic tragedy of Bonnie and Clyde is that although you can’t fall from the bottom you can reach the same horror. TOPFILM! But the whole point of “Bonnie and Clyde” is to rub our noses in it, to make us pay our dues for laughing. The joke in the glamour charge is that Faye Dunaway has the magazine-illustration look of countless uninterestingly pretty girls, and Warren Beatty has the kind of high-school good looks that are generally lost fast. Probably part of the discomfort that people feel about Bonnie and Clyde grows out of its compromises and its failures. All rights reserved. All rights reserved. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast. The romanticism in American movies lies in the cynical tough guy’s independence; the sentimentality lies, traditionally, in the falsified finish when the antihero turns hero. Our comicmelancholic affection for thirties Pop has become sixties Pop, and those who made Bonnie and Clyde are smart enough to use it that way. This is the way the story was told in 1937. ( They Live by Night, produced by John Houseman under the aegis of Dore Schary, and directed by Nicholas Ray, was a very serious and socially significant tragic melodrama, but its attitudes were already dated thirties attitudes: the lovers were very young and pure and frightened and underprivileged; the hardened criminals were sordid; the settings were committedly grim. 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