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Bonnie And Clyde

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This week Paul & Amy tear through 1967's revolutionary "Bonnie And Clyde!" They discuss how the film mixes wildly different tones, adore Faye Dunaway's style, and learn the secret source of those terrifying gunshot sounds. Plus: An interview with the writer of Bonnie & Clyde, Robert Benton!

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I don't have much to say about this. I loved the opening few scenes and the ending for all the reasons Paul and Amy said. I was only okay with most of the rest of the movie.

 

I recently watched Gold Diggers of 1933 for the first time. It is great and Ginger Rogers singing in Pig Latin was probably my favorite but it of a whole bunch of great bits.

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I also don't have all that much to say on this one. I liked it fine, but I realized in the end, I just didn't care that much. I generally do like antiheroes (ask me who I'm rooting for to win the Game Of Thrones*), but this one didn't develop in a way I felt pulled me in or made enough of a statement to make it worth it. It was almost there for me, but just not quite. There's plenty of good here though.

 

*Cersei

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Paul, I have to take a bit of offense of you calling Flatt and Scrugg's score to Bonnie and Clyde "hillbilly". I know you didn't mean it but...

 

I'm a big fan of bluegrass music and I this movie is a big part in why I dig it. It's a totally different sound, despite using the same instruments as Deliverance than the music of Deliverance.

 

For those wondering, the "chase song" as the Simpsons called it is called Foggy Mountain Breakdown. This is probably my favorite recording of the song , this is from Earl Scruggs, and in my opinion may be one of the best performances on The David Letterman Show

 

 

It features:

Earl Scruggs (banjo)

Steve Martin (banjo)

Vince Gill (electric guitar-the blonde 60s style Strat)

Paul Shaffer (piano)

Marty Stuart (mandolin)

Gary Scruggs (harmonica)

Randy Scruggs (acoustic guitar)

Glen Duncan (fiddle)

Harry Stinson (drums)

Jerry Douglas (dobro)

Albert Lee (electric guitar)

Gary Worf (bass)

 

This recording won a Grammy in 2002.

 

Sorry, I just really love bluegrass and hate the association of "hillbilly" music. I stopped the podcast to come defend it. also fwiw, I prefer the term "Americana" to describe this style of music.

 

Also

 

With an almost identical lineup with the addition of Leon Russell on organ.

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This was my first time seeing Bonnie & Clyde, and I really liked it a lot.

 

What I found interesting was how in kind of deconstructed the myth of the glamorous gangster/criminal. Starting in the mid-19th century, there was this tradition of painting criminals as these kind of folk heroes. People like Billy the Kid and Jesse James became famous less for their exploits and more for the fabulous - and often fabricated - stories written about them. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow represent the brutal and bloody end of this tradition.

 

I enjoyed that the characters of Bonnie & Clyde are hyper aware of this tradition and are knowingly chasing it. At first, they get a kick out of the fantastic lies printed about them and do whatever they can to perpetuate it. It isn't until Butch is killed and that reality starts to crash in on them.

 

One of my favorite scene is when they are at C.W.'s father's house and they are reading that they are being blamed for a bank robbery that occurred while they were convalescing. Instead laughing it off, for the first time in the movie, Clyde just loses it. He just starts yelling and says that when they're well they're going to rob that bank for real. You get this sense that he's rushing to try and keep up with the mythology, but it's already beyond his control.

 

When they are finally gunned down it is quick and brutal. They only have enough to register what's about to happen. There isn't time for a romantic final stand. Ultimately, in hail of excessive gun fire, two unarmed kids are torn to pieces and left in ignominious heaps, effectively ending the myth of the glamorous outlaw once and for all.

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While I get that this movie was “just about Bonnie & Clyde,” in the era of military drafts, I definitely understand why the thought of a young couple living outside the law and sticking it to the man might be appealing to the hippie counterculture.

 

I liked how how the final shot through the car window created a separation between these old white dudes and these kids. In that instant, it makes you reflect upon who the real killers are. B&C only ever killed in self defense or accidentally. If people had just let them be, would they have ever killed at all?

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This was my first time seeing Bonnie & Clyde, and I really liked it a lot.

 

What I found interesting was how in kind of deconstructed the myth of the glamorous gangster/criminal. Starting in the mid-19th century, there was this tradition of painting criminals as these kind of folk heroes. People like Billy the Kid and Jesse James became famous less for their exploits and more for the fabulous - and often fabricated - stories written about them. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow represent the brutal and bloody end of this tradition.

 

I enjoyed that the characters of Bonnie & Clyde are hyper aware of this tradition and are knowingly chasing it. At first, they get a kick out of the fantastic lies printed about them and do whatever they can to perpetuate it. It isn't until Butch is killed and that reality starts to crash in on them.

 

One of my favorite scene is when they are at C.W.'s father's house and they are reading that they are being blamed for a bank robbery that occurred while they were convalescing. Instead laughing it off, for the first time in the movie, Clyde just loses it. He just starts yelling and says that when they're well they're going to rob that bank for real. You get this sense that he's rushing to try and keep up with the mythology, but it's already beyond his control.

 

When they are finally gunned down it is quick and brutal. They only have enough to register what's about to happen. There isn't time for a romantic final stand. Ultimately, in hail of excessive gun fire, two unarmed kids are torn to pieces and left in ignominious heaps, effectively ending the myth of the glamorous outlaw once and for all.

 

As a fan of Westerns from the 60s, the line from The Man That Shot Liberty Valance (the "print the legend" line), you see this a lot, particularly in films like Billy The Kid Meets Dracula. The "dime novels" and "penny dreadfuls" of the late 1800s and early 1900s and the "journalism" of someone like Ned Buntline really focused on this heroic, mythic nature for people living in the cities and then again for people living in the west as they grew further away from the truth and toward the legend.Let me give you a for example, I live about two hours away from the legendary Old west town of Dodge City, and yet when the movie Tombstone (a film I really like) opens with Robert Mitchum doing this grave explanation of Wyatt Earp's famous gun with the extra long barrel, people that I knew, that should know better who could have learned the truth with a two hour drive and a $5 admission ticket, just bought it as gospel truth.

 

I think you're right about how we mythologize the "outlaw" not just from "old west" or "gangster" stories but going back to Robin Hoood and stretching into today (I mean the Fast and Furious movies are basically outlaw stories, where being an outlaw gets you rewarded, not gunned down in a hail of gunfire.)

 

We WANT the happy ending, if Bonnie and Clyde are going to go out in a blaze of glory, let them go down fighting. I think that is one of the reasons that the story Bonnie and Clyde failed to connect on Broadway, because it offered up a true ending; these kids fucking died and not heroically, not fighting back. That's not the story Americans want to hear, but I think I think it is such an American, Caucasian story, that with make heroes out of and mythologize them instead of demonize them. I really wonder what this story would look like (or you take the template of this story) and apply it to an African-American couple or a Latinx couple?

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As a fan of Westerns from the 60s, the line from The Man That Shot Liberty Valance (the "print the legend" line), you see this a lot,

 

We'll see it when we get to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid too.

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This movie is both good enough and groundbreaking enough to merit its spot on the AFI Top 100, no question.

 

As controversial as the sex and violence were in 1967, I was genuinely surprised that they didn't go full exploitation film and play up the "HE can ONLY get it UP when he MURDERS" aspect, and Clyde's impotence instead humanizes him as someone who relies as much on false bravado as he does skill. I was also surprised by how much of the film turned out to be historically accurate, erections notwithstanding.

 

Amy, your interview with Robert Benton was fantastic!

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For me the one aspect of this movie that hurt my overall enjoyment of it was some of the acting. Now I should caveat that by saying I believe that everybody that was not a five and under were great to good, but tonal I just felt if some of the performance didn't match. Specifically Gene Wilder and Estelle Parsons seemed to be giving more of a comedic performance than everybody else it just made them and their scenes seems out of place. I like the fact that this movie has comedic moments and I think those scenes are important for the overall tone of the film as well as defining the characters more. However, you have the other leads giving more serious performances and the humor coming more natural from the character than the performance per say. Take for example the scene when they first meet and recruit Moss. You get that Moss is a bit simple and him robbing the gas station he works at is funny, but yet he's not really giving a comedic performance. His character and acting in that moment is consistent throughout the film. I suppose you could argue that by Estelle Parsons playing Blanche that way sets her apart from the group and gives her that outsider feel, but I just found a lot of the time distracted by it. Especially when compared to how serious she is towards the end it just makes her being shrill and over the top early stick out more. I love Gene Wilder as well but like Paul and Amy said he's in full on Producers mode in this movie. Nothing wrong with that but fact that nobody else in the film comes close to that level of comedic performance just makes it stick out. To me these performances while good were just a bit jarring and took me out the film a bit each time.

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We'll see it when we get to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid too.

 

I know they are doing the dice thing picking these out, but I kind of would have enjoyed seeing a week of Bonnie and Clyde, which it's more dramatic tone and moments of levity and the next week doing Butch and Sundance with it's more comedic tone and moments of drama.

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“I believe I lost my shoes, Clyde. I think the dog got them” are some tragic last words. I’m not sure if they are historically accurate or not, but they seem to say so much. In Butch’s last moments, he’s remembering an absurd childhood problem, and how he reached out to his brother for help. It solidifies exactly how much Clyde has always meant to Butch, and in the end, just how badly Clyde has let him down.

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This is one of my all-time favorite movies. I love Faye Dunaway in this, and I absolutely love Gene Hackman and Michael J. Pollard.

 

I was a kid way before there was internet. I used to go to the library and find these coffee-table-style books on true crime, that covered all the gangster stuff, kidnappings, bank robbers, etc. All the stuff that happened from the old west through the 1930s, especially gangs that ran around the midwest. So maybe I was primed for crime movies in general. But most of the movies are crap (and there were so many bad made-for-tv movies in the 1970s that tried to cover similar ground).

 

I also love movies of the late 60s and early to mid 70s, movies that have their own sense of style and unexpected humor, movies that don't have happy endings, actors who chew up scenery . . . this ticks a lot of my boxes.

 

There are some of my other favorite movies on the list but it might be a while before anything knocks this out of first place.

 

I'm delighted that we hit a movie that I flat out love.

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Loved this movie the first time I saw it maybe ten years ago, and love it still after this viewing. I really enjoyed Amy's interview with Robert Benton and found his assessment of the Blanche character very interesting.

 

I'm fine with Estelle Parsons and was fine with her character as introduced. Having an audience surrogate along for the ride to express the fear, shock, and horror that anyone in their right mind would naturally experience on a multi-state crime spree was a wise decision. However, I think she should have gone through more of a criminal transformation by the end of the film. They try to accomplish this in a few bits of dialogue and her attire as the film proceeds, but it seems to me that they couldn't resist the comedic appeal of her hysterical screaming, which to me is a little tonally weird by the latter part of the film.

 

That's a minor gripe though. This one's now my #2.

 

https://letterboxd.com/mveew/list/unspooled-afi-100-ranked/

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It came VERY close to being my number two, as well. I have to admit, as much as I admire 2001, I really do prefer a plot with a strong narrative. And in that respect, I enjoyed B&C more. I also preferred the range of emotion found in B&C to the cold stoicism and existentialist dread of 2001. However, in the end, I just couldn’t dismiss the ambition behind 2001. While both have been influential, I found 2001 to be the more groundbreaking of the two. As much as it can get up it’s own ass, I feel like 2001 really tried to bring legitimacy to a genre that was - more or less - frowned upon. For me, B&C just took their genre to the next level. If it hadn’t been B&C, some other movie would have come along and done the same thing. I don’t know that I can say the same for 2001.

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Bonnie and Clyde is currently seated at #1 on my list but I really do love it

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At the beginning of the movie, when Clyde profiles Bonnie, he says:

 

Those truck drivers come there to eat your greasy burgers, and they kid you and you kid them back, but they're stupid and dumb boys with their big, old tattoos, and you don't like it. They ask you for dates, and sometimes you go, but you mostly don't, because all they're trying to do is get in your pants, whether you want them to or not. So you go on home and you sit in your room and you think: Now when, and how am I ever going to get away from this?

 

What I find interesting about that bit of dialogue is that it seems to be called back later in the film when Moss gets his own tattoo. We know that Clyde is *almost* spot on in his assessment of Bonnie, so I found it a bit strange that this tattoo-hater would actually pick out a “big, old” tattoo (“L-O-V-E) for Moss - their “stupid” and “dumb” driver.

 

It seems to suggest that whenever Bonnie is dissatisfied and wants to “get away,” she tends to run toward the same type of man. Not out of love, but out of desperation. And in the absence of anyone else, she creates a surrogate lover in Moss.

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Thank you for a wonderful episode and a fascinating interview. Just have to take issue with one thing as a fellow Texan, though: the idea that they never get Texas right in films. I'm always on the lookout for movies that do interesting things with a Texas setting, and I think there are plenty. (Shameless plug: I wrote about it here for The Rumpus: http://therumpus.net/2017/05/lone-star-cinema/ TL;DR I talk about how "movie Texas" has started to blur with "real Texas" in my head, to the point where I have more memories of Texas landscapes from movies like The Searchers (which wasn't even filmed in Texas) than actual memories of my own life there. Also the way that I think certain movies (No Country for Old Men, Hell or High Water) get Texas *beautifully* right, particularly its big emptiness, occasional sense of menace, and the fact that plenty of smaller towns feel like they haven't changed at all in seventy years.)

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At the beginning of the movie, when Clyde profiles Bonnie, he says:

 

Those truck drivers come there to eat your greasy burgers, and they kid you and you kid them back, but they're stupid and dumb boys with their big, old tattoos, and you don't like it. They ask you for dates, and sometimes you go, but you mostly don't, because all they're trying to do is get in your pants, whether you want them to or not. So you go on home and you sit in your room and you think: Now when, and how am I ever going to get away from this?

 

What I find interesting about that bit of dialogue is that it seems to be called back later in the film when Moss gets his own tattoo. We know that Clyde is *almost* spot on in his assessment of Bonnie, so I found it a bit strange that this tattoo-hater would actually pick out a “big, old” tattoo (“L-O-V-E) for Moss - their “stupid” and “dumb” driver.

 

It seems to suggest that whenever Bonnie is dissatisfied and wants to “get away,” she tends to run toward the same type of man. Not out of love, but out of desperation. And in the absence of anyone else, she creates a surrogate lover in Moss.

 

Paul and Amy touched on this a little bit in the episode, but not only was Clyde supposed to be bisexual, there was supposed to be a menage a trois scene with Bonnie, Clyde, and their "strapping male getaway driver."

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Also the way that I think certain movies (No Country for Old Men, Hell or High Water) get Texas *beautifully* right, particularly its big emptiness, occasional sense of menace, and the fact that plenty of smaller towns feel like they haven't changed at all in seventy years.)

God yes, Hell or High Water is maybe my favorite Texas set movie, and tbh it has a lot to do with one certain part and it's when Ben Foster goes into the gas station and then comes out yelling about how they don't have Dr. Pepper. That right there is literally all it took for me to believe that this was Texas, because that's SUCH a Texan fuckin thing to say.

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God yes, Hell or High Water is maybe my favorite Texas set movie, and tbh it has a lot to do with one certain part and it's when Ben Foster goes into the gas station and then comes out yelling about how they don't have Dr. Pepper. That right there is literally all it took for me to believe that this was Texas, because that's SUCH a Texan fuckin thing to say.

 

Oh yeah, this reminds me, in Bonnie and Clyde, Buck orders groceries by phone and he orders 8 Dr Peppers. There were 5 people in the house. So what gives? I felt like CW didn't get any :(

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Oh yeah, this reminds me, in Bonnie and Clyde, Buck orders groceries by phone and he orders 8 Dr Peppers. There were 5 people in the house. So what gives? I felt like CW didn't get any :(

Something tells me movie Blanche is such a spoil sport she's not drinking any.

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