Sure, the tommy guns and Model T Fords signified the Depression days of the ’30s, but ignore the period trappings: Everything about Arthur Penn’s brutal, romantic ode to outlaws Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (producer and pretty-boy Warren Beatty) encapsulated the vibe of the turbulent ’60s. Gleefully robbing exploitative banks, bonding with society’s disenfranchised and constructing their own pomo myth, these photogenic folk heroes struck a major chord with a youth culture that immediately understood the duo’s skewed stick-it-to-the-man ideology. This wasn’t their father’s gangster pic, and you didn’t have to be a member of the SDS to dig the movie’s radical-chic tag line (“They’re young…they’re in love…and they kill people”). Though screenwriters Robert Benton and David Newman had emulated the French New Wave—both Truffaut and Godard flirted with directing it—and Penn liberally borrowed the jagged, elliptic vocabulary of contemporary European cinema, the resulting mixture of shocking violence and antiauthoritarian hipness made this cool crime flick a singularly American concoction.
As the 40th-anniversary commemorative edition proves, Bonnie and Clyde’s revolutionary sensibility doesn’t seem musty or dated. The beautiful transfer only emphasizes how integral Burnett Guffey’s cinematography and Dede Allen’s editing were to establishing the movie’s tone, while three new supplementary featurettes recount the film’s journey from mainstream pariah to pop-culture touchstone. The addition of two deleted scenes (minus audio, regrettably) and Beatty’s wardrobe tests make up for a ho-hum History Channel doc that even superfans will find superfluous.