Five weeks down and 35 movies in...and how does it all end? For now, in a bloody hail of Bonnie and Clyde bullets. I've seen the film at least a half dozen times (it was one of my first screeings in Cinema 190 at 'SC), but the execution of Warren Beatty's Clyde Barrow and Faye Dunaway's Bonnie Parker - the infamous bankrobbing duo from the Great Depression - can still unsettle your soul.
By now, a thousand squibs and tommy gun fire are commonplace in the movie market, but in 1967 when this gangster film debuted, it was literally unheard of. The extended violence, the stylish anti-heroes and the unsentimental tone of it all would go on to influence everything from The Godfather to The Departed. It still works here. If anything, what was a mainstream hit then for the youths of the '60s now comes across as almost an indie film that could care less about pleasing the post-MTV generation.
But they seemed to love it. The audience at the Aero was largely twentysomethings or younger who've somehow rediscovered the film. The older folks like myself remember Warren Beatty in his prime (or at least when Heaven Can Wait was on cable), but he and Dunaway have lost none of their magic, and their rebel 'cool' attitude works for a new generation. They're the original Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and in director Arthur Penn's hands, they get plenty of time to show off their acting chops and their action mettle. You buy that these ultra glamorous-looking people could be simpleton bank robbers, and you're invested in the Barrow gang - rounded out by character actor Michael J. Pollard as dimwitted sidekick C.W. Moss, Oscar winner Estelle Parsons as Beatty's shrill sister-in-law Blanche, and the ever-reliable Gene Hackman as Blanche's hubby and Beatty's good 'ol boy older brother Buck.
Watching Hackman, I kept thinking, does the man age? Whether it's Bonnie and Clyde, Hoosiers or Enemy of the State, he always looks like your favorite older uncle. The other fun performance here is Gene Wilder, in his film debut as a hapless undertaker named Eugene Grizzard, who's taken - along with his girlfriend - on a fun joyride with the gang.
If you haven't seen Bonnie and Clyde, one of the seminal films of the '60s, then catch it quick. Weigh in below, too, with your other classics of the era, or the shoot 'em up genre. For shoot 'em ups '60s western style, I also heartily recommend The Wild Bunch and Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West, both of which can be appreciated as subverted visions of the form, or as just spectacularly entertaining movies to watch.