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04.09.08

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Phaedra

Bonnie and Clyde

Two discs; Warner Home Video; $20.98

By Michael S. Gant


In 1967, the jaunty juxtaposition of slapstick and bloodletting in Bonnie and Clyde looked like counterculture anti-authoritarianism. Audiences cheered when sexy bank robbers Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway bearded the dour Texas Ranger, because the cops were the forces of repression against sex, drugs rock, & roll and antiwar protests. The setting was the Depression, but the subtext was Vietnam. Now, on its 40th anniversary release (plus a year, but who's counting) on DVD, the sight of all those FDR posters has a new resonance. When Bonnie and Clyde pull off a bank heist, they could be striking back at Bear Stearns for the victims of predatory subprime lenders. Indeed, now that we are suffering a spate of foreclosures rivaling that of the early-'30s, the scene in which Clyde lets an old dirt farmer take potshots at the bank foreclosure sign on his lost home cuts a deep economic wound. The movie remains as fresh stylistically as well as politically and socially. Dunaway emanates waves of raw desire while Beatty flashes a grin as wide as a West Texas plain. Estelle Parsons screeches to the heavens as Blanche, and Michael J. Pollard's aw-shucks C.W. Moss is an indelible comic creation. The extras include two documentaries about the real-life Bonnie and Clyde, and interviews with producer/star Beatty, director Arthur Penn and various cast and crew. Beatty is particularly astute about the break with the Hollywood past his film represented. He recalls that crusty old Jack Warner endured the premiere and called B&C a "three-piss picture."


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