Monday, December 15, 2008

Bonnie and Clyde

Although the original screenwriters David Newman and Robert Benton were influenced by Truffaut, I found more references to Godard in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde. Sure, you have the shy male/aggressive female from Shoot the Piano Player. Clyde seems like a strong virile male but he never had sex with a woman until Bonnie who keeps coming on to him. However, you have the lovers on the run and the ironic use of filters from Pierrot Le Fou. This time, Bonnie plays the fool as she thinks that an adventure filled life with Clyde will fulfill her but ultimately it does not. Yet she accepts it because it provides fuel for her writing just like Ferdinand has to write about his ideas from his relationship with Marianne. Also from Pierrot Le Fou, the scene where they visit Bonnie’s mother is in a soft focus. I do not know that if that was accomplished by a filter or a different lens but the fact that it looks visually different from the rest of the film draws attention to it like Godard’s use of filters does in his films. I chose Pierrot Le Fou over the other ones because the others were used where the female character was the main focus while in Pierrot Le Fou the filters were used in a party scene to show the superficiality of Ferdinand’s life without passion. In this film, the soft focus gives a dreamy atmosphere as Bonnie is reunited with her mother. However, her mother disapproves of the life Bonnie leads betraying the idyllic visual that the soft focus gives.

Bonnie and Clyde also features Godard’s favorite sound manipulation, starting and stopping the music at random points. However, it has a little more direction in this film. After Bonnie and Clyde’s first successful heist, the victims are interviewed. When the cop answers the questions, the music gets louder suggesting that the cop’s words mean nothing because Bonnie and Clyde are the heroes in this story. When the farmer answers the question, the music stops drawing importance on the fact that Bonnie and Clyde are more inclined to steal from the bank rather a poor person which again makes them look like heroes.

Like Les Carabiniers, Bonnie and Clyde shows what happens when someone with very little intelligence and guns mix. C.W. Moss reminds me of the two idiots mindlessly following orders in order to gain a fruitless reward, the life of an outlaw. Although with the guidance (or perhaps I should say orders) from his father, he was able to save himself from indulging in a life of self-indulgent violence. Blanche reminds me of the two girls who expected to benefit from the spoils of her husband’s life of crime without participating in it. But she comes with the added bonus of being a preacher’s daughter who incessantly whines about how her life turned out so badly.

So I can see the French New Wave influence on the film but I see more Godard than Truffaut.

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