Archive for Bonnie and Clyde

A Mess o’ Flowers

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2018 by dcairns

Was talking to my first year students about editing. Showed them a robbery scene from BONNIE AND CLYDE. Probably didn’t say as much as I could’ve, but the clip was well received, and the first question, from two separate sources at once, was “What’s the name of that film again?” because they immediately wanted to SEE the whole thing.

Which has to be good. And if you’re shocked that they didn’t already know it, remember they’re young, they haven’t had the chance to see everything.

(If you want to get angry at anyone, the BBC and Channel 4 would be suitable targets for their willfully falling down on the job of introducing their audience to great cinema.)

I introduced the film’s stars with their names and the words “And the Oscar goes to…” because that is likely to remain the principal recognition factor for those actors for a little while, but they WILL live it down…

Why this scene? Well, Dede Allen’s cutting of the robbery itself is masterful, with the tautness of each movement, the sparse soundtrack a series of steps and clicks and thuds with dead air between, creating a sense of a tense but very METHODICAL operation being undertaken.

(Gene Hackman was recognised as someone who was grumpy to Wes Anderson.)

And then the car chase — the music being an existing recording rather than a specially made score, simply dropped into place and cut in and out of as required. The fast-and-loose continuity, designed to get a sense of life and jeopardy and velocity into the ponderous movements of aged vehicles. I didn’t have to point out the moment when one camera operator jerks sideways as a jalopy gets a little TOO close for comfort (Objects in Wide Angle Lens May Be Closer Than They Appear).

And the recklessly bold interruption of the chase with cutaways to the bank where witnesses are being interviewed by the papers: sudden silent static shots interrupting the flow of the chase with TOTAL RUDENESS, bringing things to a momentary standstill, seemingly slamming the brakes on every aspect of the tone and pace the sequence is otherwise trying to achieve. And yet, it’s absolutely right. Because the filmmakers have decided, for the sake of the story, that robbing banks is exciting and fun. And the bank scenes are hilarious.

“There I wuz, staring into the face of DEATH.”

“All I can say is, they did right by me, an’ I’m bringin’ me a mess o’ flowers to their funeral.”

By the second interruption, it’s no longer an interruption but part of the peculiar rhythm of the piece, which behaves like a game of musical chairs. The brutal treatment of the music is probably the main survival of the early notion of Jean-Luc Godard directing the picture.

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Dying Like Crazy

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , on April 26, 2014 by dcairns

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Finished reading Mark Harris’ Scenes from a Revolution. Two unusually large thumbs up.

(The book also seems to be called Pictures at a Revolution by mistake. I like the Mussorgsky quality of that.)

There’s a story told by Arthur Penn at his appearance at Edinburgh International Film Festival which does not appear in the book’s excellent and extensive coverage of BONNIE AND CLYDE. Now, I don’t know if it’s true, but it seems possible, Penn told it, and it’s funny. It plays into Warren Beatty’s well-known predilection for doing lots of takes, not really starting to act until he’s good and ready, that stuff.

This one will require the use of your mind’s eye, so make sure you have it polished and switched on. Ready?

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The film’s climactic massacre was conceived by Penn, under the influence no doubt of Kurosawa, as a kind of “spastic ballet” — bodies jerking as they’re peppered with bullets, blood capsules and squibs blazing everywhere. It took half a day to get Beatty and Faye Dunaway wired up with the necessary explosives for the first angle. Four cameras were lined up, each shooting at a different speed. Beatty had control of the pyrotechnics — he’s supposed to be eating a pear, and by squeezing it, he set off the fireworks.

Action! The mayhem commences. But, for reasons known only to himself, Beatty does not begin to act. “He just stood there with a dopey smile on his face as a piece of his head blue off,” recalled Penn. Bullets rippled Beatty’s suit, and still he remained, smiling and blinking slowly. “And all the time Faye Dunaway, behind him, is dying like crazy. I wish to God I’d kept that piece of film.”

I’d rank this lost outtake even higher than the one I described here.

Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood
Bonnie And Clyde [Blu-ray] [1967] [Region Free]

What we are about now is a week of posts dealing with period movies from the New Hollywood of the ’70s. Not westerns, so much, mainly ’20s and ’30s settings, and quite a few of them New Hollywood looking at Old Hollywood. Hope you can dig it. Suggestions are still welcome.

Euphoria #37: My Name is Jim

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2008 by dcairns

 Mel B

Kieran Thomson suggests one particular moment from Mel Brooks’ BLAZING SADDLES — and why not? Mel Brooks has given the world an enormous amount of euphoric hysteria during his stay on this planet, and about a third of it can be found in this one film.

At age eleven, Kieran is our youngest euphoric Shadowplayer yet, but he is wise beyond his years, having been the subject of intense scientific experimentation during his development, rather like DOC SAVAGE, MAN OF BRONZE, or Carl Boehm in PEEPING TOM. Kieran’s dad, a mad pharmacist, has wisely kept the child-proof caps on, but has dosed his offspring with many kinds of Psychotropic Cinema (Cocteau and Lon Chaney Snr at age 5), which may produce dizziness, seizures, severe itching, difficulty in breathing, swollen lips, abnormal body movements, profuse sweating or excessive excitement.

And it’s WORKED.

The exact Euphoric Moment cited by Kieran, and included in this clip, is this exchange:

“Are we awake?”

“We’re not sure. Are we… black?”

Weird how the studio refused to let Richard Pryor play Bart here, so Cleavon Little gets a shot at immortality. Either he was considered better box office because of VANISHING POINT, or Pryor just scared the crap out of the suits at Warner Bros.

Gig Young was originally cast as Jim, the Waco Kid, because Brooks naively thought a genuine alcoholic would be more effective. Once he realised that there was nothing funny about Young’s condition (Young subsequently committed suicide after murdering his wife) he offered the part to Gene Wilder, who’s almost as atypical a cowboy star as Cleavon Little.

Wilder deserves special honour for his work in THE PRODUCERS, BONNIE AND CLYDE, and WILLIE WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. The latter is not a great film, but Wilder is monumentally impressive in it. Rather than play the part with a smile and wink to the audience (“I’m a good guy really”), Wilder is satanic and psychopathic throughout. I get a sugar rush of evil just looking at him. No wonder Marilyn Manson homaged this movie in a music vid.

Wilder’s oft-forgotten cameo in BONNIE AND CLYDE features maybe the best, and almost certainly the longest… comic pause… in history, a skill Wilder refined in EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK, where his entire performance is basically one long pause punctuated by short bursts of speech and motion.