Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 3. March 19 1968
A Word of comfort for those who think Bonnie and Clyde "panders to the adolescent sadism of audiences" (as one person put it), is immoral, technically inefficient, or "just an ordinary film"—be of good cheer!
You have a champion in Page Cook, whose review is reprinted below, writing in that repository of reactionary film criticism Films in Review. What is interesting about this piece apart from distortions of fact (e.g. what the camera dwells on) is the outraged tone of the writing.
Many critics of this brand don't just dislike the film—they resent it. They resent the popularity of Bonnie and Clyde—its impact on today's audiences and, no doubt, themselves. Rather like Wagner's music the film impinges on areas of the psyche normally free from unwelcome intrusion.
Films, especially the Hollywood type, are not supposed to have this effect on people.
As Pauline Kael has pointed out Bonnie and Clyde is the most American American film since The Manchurian Candidate and like the earlier film is one of the major works of the '60s.
And this is something else that is unacceptable to Page Cook and cronies—the fact Bonnie and Clyde is a spirited evocation of one aspect of mythical Americana.
Nevertheless, in its own way the review is something of a collector's item—the emphases were in the original.
"Bonnie and Clyde is so incompetently written, acted, directed and produced it would not be worth noticing were a claque not attempting to promote the idea that its sociopathy is art.
The claque even succeeded in having Bonnie and Clyde as the opening night picture at Montreal's recent International Film Festival.
"The script of Bonnie and Clyde, by David Newman and Robert Benton, is dementia praecox of the most pointless sort—that is it endeavours to do simultaneously such antithetical things as—
• 'explain' the Barrow gang of real-life punks who killed 18 people in the course of Texas-Oklahoma holdups in the depression days of the 30s,
• kid those real-life hold-ups and murders via slap-stick (very amateurishly)
• deploy male impotence (Clyde's) through the film as an apnrodisiac for pathics of both sexes,
• wallow in sado-masochism (the camera dwells on an eye as it is shot from its socket, on a head that is blown apart),
• arouse sympathy for Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker when the police ultimately ambush and gun them down.
"Who is the producer of so adolescently ignorant a film? Warren Beatty, who also plays Clyde, and, in doing so, adds his own ignorances to the character-inconsistencies of the script.
"Who directed? Arthur Penn whose artistic integrity is about on the level of Beatty's acting ability—i.e. close to zero.
"I regret to say so competent a craftsman as Burnett Guffey consented to colour-photograph this degenerate farrago. But I do not regret to say Charles Strouse 'composed' the music.
"That he would be willing to provide smarty-pants Keystone Kop guitar tinkles by Flatt and Scruggs for this film's chase sequences will long be the index of his artistic integrity.
"I am sorry to say Faye Dunaway and Michael J. Pollard are in the cast. The latter has a small acting range but is often creative within its limits (wholly physical).
"Association with dreck-like Bonnie and Clyde can do him professional harm.
"It can do even greater harm to Miss Dunaway who has acting ability as well as looks.
"One final word—there is evil in the tone of the writing, acting, and direction of this film the calculated effect of which is to incite in the young the delusion that armed robbery and murder are mere 'happenings'."
Long Day's Journey into Night had a return screening in Wellington recently. Some critics have accused the film of being "stagey" and "uncinematic" but when pressed for reasons can only refer to the size of the cast and the enclosed set. There is certainly nothing "uncinematic" about Sidney Lumet's direction. His style is suited to the proper rendering of the play—there are no superfluous flourishes designed to convince us we are watching "cinema".
In the extended duologues he avoids the irritating cliche of cutting from one speaker to another but instead allows each actor scope to express the qualities of the character and the vigour and meaning of the language. The moving camera is used subjectively to create atmosphere and suggest emotional states—here Lumet is brilliantly successful.
Long Day's Journey into Night is in many ways his most subtle and powerful film.
The film is obviously a vehicle for actors and Lumet is served by a brilliant ensemble. Jason Robards and Dean Stockwell are excellent as the sons, Robards in particular showing a flair for grim histrionics.
Ralph Richardson might at first sight seem too theatrical for the role of James Tyrone but his Old Vic style of delivery and expression is clearly called for in this pompous, pathetic character who was once a great Shakespearean actor.
This is the best film performance I have ever seen from one of the quintet of British theatrical knights.
Katherine Hepburn has always been one of the two or three greatest actresses in the cinema and her Mary Tyrone is one of the great screen performances. I look forward to Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in which she is partnered by her lifelong friend, and another all-time "great", Spencer Tracy.
My Sister, My Love has enough moments of melodrama to render it slightly less tedious than Loving Couples—but only just.
In some ways it is the better film—Vilgot Sjoman has a more interesting visual style and the added advantage of that excellent actor Jarl Kulle.
My Sister, My Love has in common with the other film a sprog-dropping (or sprog-extracting, if you prefer) conclusion ana under-lit, eye-straining monochrome photography.
I had some difficulty following the story but the writer of the film can't be blamed—it's just that I kept dropping off to sleep.
On with To Love, and the ordeal will be over. For a while at least.
(Disclaimer—A note to those who have nothing better to do on a Sunday but reading the Sunday Times film reviews. The recent reviews of The Comedians and The Taming of the Shrew, although signed RB, was not written by me. God forbid.)