The turning point from Hollywood's moribund studio system to the impending youthquake of the 1970s, Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967) audaciously broke conventions, upset critics, and revealed a young audience's box office power. With its unstinting violence and sympathy for the glamorous, gun-toting criminals, Bonnie and Clyde sharply divided critics over whether it was strikingly innovative or reprehensibly amoral and nihilistic. The increasingly rebellious youth audience, however, embraced the doomed heroes, and both Time and Newsweek recanted their initial negative negative reviews as other critics continued to savage it. Though Warner Bros. had dumped the film, star Warren Beatty badgered the studio into a second release. Bonnie and Clyde grossed over $20 million, landing on the cover of Time as the harbinger of the "New Cinema" as Theadora Van Runkle's costumes inspired a 1930s fashion craze. Heavily influenced by the European art movies of the early 1960s, writers Robert Benton and David Newman intended to make a revisionist gangster movie in the spirit of the French New Wave, to be directed by Jean-Luc Godard or François Truffaut; the film openly sympathized with its glamorous gangsters, who became analogues of hip 1960s counter-culture protestors, and its tone veered unexpectedly between slapstick comedy and serious consequences, galling more conventional critics who wanted the film to enforce a clear morality. Faye Dunaway's strong-willed Bonnie and Beatty's impotent Clyde were hardly a traditional couple, and their gory demise in rapid-fire, slow motion montage went far beyond previous Hollywood bloodshed. Nominated for ten Oscars including Best Picture, Bonnie and Clyde won for Burnett Guffey's cinematography and Estelle Parsons as Supporting Actress. The impact of its violence and youth appeal was confirmed by the ensuing successes of The Wild Bunch and Easy Rider, while outlaw couple films from Badlands (1973) to Thelma and Louise (1991) have ensured its continuing legacy.
by Lucia Bozzola review