BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967)

Talk about a film that will never need to be remade!

The screening I saw last night was a new digital transfer, which felt somewhat inimical to the very nature of the picture, but it was a gorgeous experience nonetheless. Little touches like Gene Wilder’s brief role make the film, as does third-man Michael Pollard as CW Moss. (As a kid I’m sure I saw him rubbing his nose and squinting in a movie and the only one in his filmography that I can imagine it being from is The Russians Are Coming.)

Having never seen it before, I was not expecting Clyde’s particular personal problem, especially after the muzzle-stroking build-up/fake-out!  It was a big surprise given the archetype and made the story a thousand times more interesting than other films in the genre.

Not only is this ultimate vulnerability so antithetical to everything movies are usually about, but it makes us sympathize with both of them equally because Bonnie’s frustration is so palpable (which in turn makes her all the more lovable for staying with him). It’s a great example of inverting the typically assigned gender roles without making the man feminine or the woman masculine.

Finally, this must be one of the greatest car movies of all time: it truly captures that particular sense of freedom that must have felt possible when cars finally became fast enough to outrun people and horses.

If the gun is the “magic wand” of Badlands that makes every obstacle it’s pointed at disappear (as Martin Sheen says Malick told him to think of his gun), then the car is the broomstick of Bonnie and Clyde that allows its riders (often hanging onto the outside) to whimsically escape every predicament they get themselves into.  Once in a car, they are invincible. Their fall is possible only when they’ve been lured out of their magical car.

Come to think of it, the recurring motif is “just going” in contrast to going somewhere. They invited death because they stopped just going.

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