The Frightening Power of \u201cBonnie and Clyde\u201d | The New Yorker.pdf - ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH THE ARTS ISSUE \u201cBONNIE AND CLYDE\u201d Arthur Penn's iconic

The Frightening Power of “Bonnie and Clyde” | The New Yorker.pdf

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ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH THE ARTSOCTOBER 21, 1967 ISSUE“BONNIE AND CLYDE”Arthur Penn's iconic gangster film.By Pauline KaelOctober 14, 1967HPhotograph from Everettow do you make a good movie in this country without being jumped on? “Bonnie and Clyde” is themost excitingly American American movie since “The Manchurian Candidate.” The audience isalive to it. Our experience as we watch it has some connection with the way we reacted to movies inchildhood: with how we came to love them and to feel they were ours—not an art that we learned overthe years to appreciate but simply and immediately ours. When an American movie is contemporary infeeling, like this one, it makes a different kind of contact with an American audience from the kind that ismade by European films, however contemporary. Yet any movie that is contemporary in feeling is likely togo 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. Though we may dismiss theattacks with “What good movie doesn’t give some offense?,” the fact that it is generally onlygood moviesthat provoke attacks by many people suggests that the innocuousness of most of our movies is acceptedwith such complacence that when an American movie reaches people, when it makes them react, some ofthem think there must be something the matter with it—perhaps a law should be passed against it.“Bonnie and Clyde” brings into the almost frighteningly public world of movies things that people havebeen feeling and saying and writing about. And once something is said or done on the screens of theworld, once it has entered mass art, it can never again belong to a minority, never again be the privatepossession of an educated, or “knowing,” group. But even for that group there is an excitement in hearingits own private thoughts expressed out loud and in seeing something of its own sensibility become part ofour common culture.
the surface what, in its newest forms and fashions, is always just below the surface. The romanticism inAmerican movies lies in the cynical tough guy’s independence; the sentimentality lies, traditionally, in thefalsified finish when the anti-hero turns hero. In 1967, this kind of sentimentality wouldn’t work with theaudience, and “Bonnie and Clyde” substitutes sexual fulfillment for a change of heart. (This doesn’t quitework, either; audiences sophisticated enough to enjoy a movie like this one are too sophisticated for thedramatic uplift of the triumph over impotence.)Structurally, “Bonnie and Clyde” is a story of love on the run, like the old Clark Gable–Claudette Colbert“It Happened One Night” but turned inside out; the walls of Jericho are psychological this time, but theyfall anyway. If the story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow seemed almost from the start, and even tothem while they were living it, to be the material of legend, it’s because robbers who are loyal to each

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