It was in 2017 when Bonnie and Clyde celebrated its release’s 50th anniversary. It is, obviously, Hollywood’s one of the most transformative movies ever released. Nathan Blake, Northeastern University’s own film historian is quite intrigued by this movie. It stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, who are lovers in the times of the Great Depression. He believes that it has “established a new threshold for on-screen violence” and “ushered in a new wave” of auteurs.
Blake is an associate professor at the University. He said, “It still holds up today, because it speaks to the anti-authoritarian mindset, it tends to feel a little timeless.” However, ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ wasn’t a superhit when it hit the theatres in 1967. The reviews were highly negative. The New York Times said it was ‘’a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick comedy. On the other hand, Time called it to be “a strange and purposeless mingling of fact and claptrap that teeters uneasily on the brink of burlesque.”
Blake is a passionate cinephile, who has spent most of his 20s watching art house films. “The violence was very shocking, particularly for older critics. They thought it was a monstrosity—a sign of cultural decay—because of the way it turned these killers into martyrs of the hippie generation.” However, amongst these bad reviews, some of them, such as Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael, gave good reviews. Kael thought it to be “the most excitingly American movie since The Manchurian Candidate”, while Ebert labelled it “a milestone in the history of American movies, a work of truth and brilliance.”
The time changed as more and more people saw how great of a movie it was, which led it to re-release itself in 1968. It grossed around $16.5 million and was honoured with 10 Academy Award nominations. The film’s cinematography might be the reason behind most of its success, according to Blake. The violent demise of the partners in crime was actually the origin of on-screen violence.
Over all these years, many have followed ‘Bonnie and Clyde’s’ lead, which follows the thought that “the intense yet doomed relationship that never lasts.” This way, according to Blake, this movie of ‘partners in crime’ is the archetype of such films. “It is simultaneously a celebration of rugged individualism and an affirmation of heterosexual romance that is not encumbered by the pull toward domesticity,” said Blake. “You can be free, but also in love.”