"Bonnie & Clyde" is not a perfect film, but it's a highly influential piece of American cinema that's been imitated, but never toped.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967, Blu-ray)
Directors: Arthur Penn
Producers: Warren Beatty
Writers: David Newman (written by) & Robert Benton (written by) Robert Towne uncredited
Features: * Two Documentaries * Deleted Scenes * Trailers * Booklet
Warren Beatty ... Clyde Barrow
Faye Dunaway ... Bonnie Parker
Michael J. Pollard ... C.W. Moss
Gene Hackman ... Buck Barrow
Estelle Parsons ... Blanche
Denver Pyle ... Frank Hamer
Dub Taylor ... Ivan Moss
Evans Evans ... Velma Davis
Gene Wilder ... Eugene Grizzard
Bonnie & Clyde Blu-ray Review
During my years as both a scholar of film and a critic, I've somehow managed to miss watching "Bonnie & Cylde." It wasn't that I didn't want to watch the film or anything. It's just that I never got around to it. Which was why I was excited when Warner finally announced a decent high-def special editon of the classic 1967 film about two Depression-era lovers who turn to crime and meet a sad "Romeo and Juliet"-type fate. It meant that after years of waiting, I'd finally be given the opportunity to watch the film and it would be the best presentation of the film ever released on home video, and I suspect, it's likely a better presentation than when it premiered in theaters.
Obviously, I knew what "Bonnie & Clyde" was about and I'd even seen a handful of scenes, namely the tragic, violent final scene. The film is tame by today's standards, but back in the '60s, this was a violent, fast paced adventure. Initially a flop, "Bonnie & Clyde" eventually became a relatively strong success thanks in large part to strong word of mouth, popular bluegrass music and, eventually, critical raves. So, did the film hold up for a first time viewer like me?
In many ways, yes, it holds up well. The film is briskly paced, speaking into a youthful generation. Faye Dunaway's style and attitude is imitated even today. She's a stunningly attractive woman in the film and her "go get 'em" style is both appealing and intimidating. The influence of her character can be seen all over cinema, from the '70s to today.
The film seems to host elements of the early roots of the 'punk' movement in both the style of the film, and it's colorful characters. Pop-punk artist Avril Lavigne seems to be taking a page or two from the edgy, but sexy, look of Faye Dunaway. Evidence to the early 'punk' movement is even clearer in Michael J. Pollard's C.W. Moss, a rebellious youth who joins the Barrow gang. He sports a tommy gun, a tattered shirt and a very striking tattoo in the center of his chest. He looks and acts like a rebellious 'punk'--full of zeal and angst.
Today, the film has the strong scent of social relevance. It's a film that speaks loudly to youths with it's zeal and rebellious attitude. The film also speaks to the Depression-era, becoming a sort of mask for that world. Make no mistake, Bonnie and Clyde are no 'Robin Hoods', but they come so close, it's almost sad that they themselves don't see the irony, particularly when banks start pinning robberies on them that they didn't even commit--to hide the fact that they were bankrupt.
The film does have some faults that are worth noting. The middle act meanders a bit, just like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." The focus shifts from a briskly paced actioner about bank robberies to family melodrama and it's a jarring turn of events. The finale of the film also feels a bit rushed with character traits coming full circle just minutes before the abrupt, but poignant finale.
Both Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway deliver subtle, strong performances. Gene Hackman is also along for the ride as Clyde's over-the-top brother Buck Barrow. Hackman is a not as subtle as he usually is, feeling more like an actor of the old age--stagy and wooden. His performance matches his character, however, and it's hardly a distraction. The only real weak link in the cast is Estelle Parsons who plays Blanche, the wife of Hackman's Buck. She's an annoying woman, constantly over-the-top, screaming and very theatrical. It works to create tension among the crew, but a subtler performance would have made for a much longer lasting character. As it stands today, she's a standout among the cast.
The direction is both slick and well paced. Director Arthur Penn crafts a very modern looking film that I'm sure confused audiences of when it was released. It's crafted very much like an indie would be today. There's hardly any setup to the plot. It just gets moving and rarely takes a moment to breath. The influence of this pace and style is peppered into just about every action-drama today.
"Bonnie & Clyde" is not a perfect film, but it's a highly influential piece of American cinema that's been imitated, but never toped. I'm glad i finally got to see the film. My experience was exactly what I expected it would be. "Bonnie & Clyde" is an uproarious action drama, loosely based on truth, about two lovers on the brink of losing it all. What could be more inspirational than that?
Film Report Card:
As entertainment: B+
As a film: B+
Warner presents the film in 1.85:1 widescreen at 1080p/VC-1 on a dual-layer BD50 disc. While this is a very old film, Warner has done a fantastic job restoring the print to it's original glory. In fact, I suspect that this print looks better than the original theatrical print, barring a few mistakes here and there. I was stunned by how sharp the film looked. It's not quite as sharp as films today, but it does have a very crisp, finely detailed look to it. Colors are both vibrant and well tuned. The film has a very solid, bright palette. Black levels are also deep and rich, well tuned with very little bleed.
I did notice a few hiccups, however. The film has a very noticeable amount of grain on the print. It adds to gritty style, and in some ways, makes the film feel a bit more modern, but could distract some viewers. I also noticed spots of dust and white specks during a few scenes. I imagine they were just missed in the remastering process. There were also two notable scenes that just weren't as striking as the rest of the picture. The most notable is the sequence when Bonnie's parents visit. I don't really know the history of why this sequence is so murky and soft, but it felt like it could have been cleaned a little better. Also, there's one quick moment where it appears as though the original film stock is missing, and a lower-res source was put in it's place. It comes shortly after Buck and his wife Blanche show up. Bonnie grabs a Tommy Gun and holds it up for a photo. A small bit a dialogue ensues with inter-cuts between Bonnie and Clyde. The final shot of Bonnie looks like it came from a VHS or DVD source and was not remastered in any way. Again, these aren't really problems with the transfer itself, just small hiccups that prevented me from rating this anything above a B+.
Since no raw audio exists anymore for this film, "Bonnie & Clyde" could not be remastered. The disc receives a soft, hissy, crackly mono track that's hardly noteworthy at all. It does the job, but don't except any surround usage or stereo separation with this one.
Oddly, "Bonnie & Clyde" has never received any sort of special edition treatment from Warner despite much fan outcry. Thankfully Warner has finally delivered a decent special edition for fans to enjoy. It's missing a commentary track, which is a true shame, but what's here is well worth the cost of the disc. Special features include:
• TV Special: "Love and Death: The True Story of Bonnie & Clyde" -- Fans of the film are likely to have seen this 40 minute 1992 TV special. It's rather detailed covering the real history of the two title characters. It discusses what was changed for the film and the true life impact of the Barrow gang. Very interesting stuff and worth a view if you haven't already seen it.
• Documentary: "Revolution! The Making of 'Bonnie & Clyde'" -- This is the real meat of the set. This 60 minute documentary covers the film itself, from it's rough pre-production to it's failure and eventual success. Fans will probably know a lot of the material presented, but it's still nice to see the cast and crew together discussing such an influential film. This is a real treat for fans.
• Deleted Scenes -- Two scenes are presented and are a real treat for fans. These are obviously unfinished and unclean, but still a great addition to this set. Some wardrobe tests with Warren Beatty are also included.
• Collectible Booklet -- The presentation comes equipped with a delightful 24 page book loaded with stills from the film, essays and letters from the filmmakers. A nice addition, however, I was too pleased with how this set was packaged (see: packaging below).
• Trailers -- You know the drill with this one.
Nothing, other than the packaging.
This is billed as the "book edition" title. This means that the box is designed to look like a storybook. The actual 24 page book is woven into the case and is placed in front of the disc. While I like the overall design of the book, I couldn't help but be frustrated by how much it stands out against regular Blu-ray discs. Why wasn't the book at least cut to the same shape of Blu-ray discs? Rather, it's as tall as a DVD case and sticks out nearly a 1/4 inch past regular Blu-ray discs. Also, I've only had the case a few days and it's already received a few minor surface scratches. Frankly, this case is a little too close to Warner's original DVD cases-- and those were terrible. It's a nice design and presentation, but it doesn't match the rest of the format's style and tone.
Fans are going to love this set. It's nice to finally get a decent special edition of this film. Newcomers should definitely give this disc a spin. It's a terrifically inspirational film, fast paced and full of style. This Blu-ray presentation only aides in keeping this memorable film alive and kicking.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: N/A
Recommendation: Worth owning.
On DVD and Blu-ray disc: March 25th, 2008.
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----R. L. Shaffer