Arthur Penn – Bonnie & Clyde
I saw Bonnie & Clyde for the first time on the big screen, third time overall, last year and I was absolutely blown away by how great it actually is. It was better than the first time the second and better than the second the third, which is really great praise. Arthur Penn never really equaled Bonnie & Clyde in any of his other films, but B&C is unapologetically a home run. Penn’s direction is languid and strange; you can tell the independent seventies are right around the corner. A guess based purely on the direction might place this film ten years later than its 1967 date. It’s quiet, focusing on the surprising emotion of the story. The direction feels European, in a way. I’d point in particular for the first real love scene between Beatty’s Clyde and Dunaway’s Bonnie. The film gets across the point of Clyde’s impotence in a really powerful way without ever being graphic; yet, in a way, the scene is more sensual than many a more graphic sex scene. The camera lingers on the small details, holds on the faces a beat or two longer than you’d expect and the soundtrack is mostly entirely silent, just the small rustles of the movements the characters are making. It’s as far from the melodramatic love scenes of old Hollywood as it could be, both in content and tone. The scene has an astonishing emotional arc and Penn holds on the frustrated, saddened stillness of the aftermath for far longer than you think he will. It’s a wonderful, almost avant-garde film, all things considered. Penn’s direction is absolutely masterful.
Okay, next time, we’ll close out the list of the best directors I encountered in 2013. This time, it’s another film that was actually released in 2013. It was a movie I went to expecting a great lead performance. I got one, but what really blindsided me was the poetic direction, which I wasn’t expecting.