I remember in sixth grade after a vacation, sitting and listening while each classmate was asked what he or she did over the break. Several girls responded in this fashion: “On Monday, I saw Bonnie and Clyde. On Tuesday, I saw Bonnie and Clyde again. On Thursday, I saw…” I saw it too, but only once.
Some people criticized the film for glorifying a couple of outlaws – the usual culture-war stuff in the 1960s and early 70s. Watching it yesterday, it seemed to me that the bank robbers were portrayed as utterly pathetic losers, uneducated and ignorant, stifled by their small-town lives in an era of economic disaster.
Clyde announces his masculine deficiencies right off, at the very start of the film. First, symbolically: He declares to Bonnie that he cut off some toes to escape work detail in prison. Secondly, after a small robbery and heady getaway, he rejects Bonnie’s frenzied sexual advances and declares, “I ain’t no lover boy.” He’s a great shot with a pistol, though.
I was prepared to not like this film – another over-rated artifact of the 1960s effervescence – but, in fact, it is very good. Spare, and very dark. The editing is so crisp, keeping the pace going, and commenting on the smallness of the characters and their foolish, clueless self-aggrandizement. Of course, it all builds towards that concluding fusillade, that made the film such a favorite for my sexually precocious, or curious, female classmates. Doomed lovers are always a popular theme.
Clyde is impotent, although he does manage to perform at last, near the end. They drive towards the final ambush, eating fruit, dribbling juice down their faces. (Reminded me of the pre-sex meal scene in Tom Jones.) Of course, sex is not what’s coming, or is it? Sex-Death, the eternal couple, dancing on display here. Eros and Thanatos. Bonnie, cheated of earthly ecstasy, seems to achieve it in death. The stylistic and thematic debt to the too-little-known Gun Crazy is enormous.
And of course, there’s this!