New Hollywood rewind is a new series here on The Bonesaw where writer Anthony Carioscia takes a look at films from the era known as “New Hollywood.”
In 1934, a code of conduct on Hollywood films was passed. This code was known as the Hays Code. This Code made it so Hollywood studios would have to keep their films censored and as family friendly as possible. Films were not allowed to show couples in bed together, pregnancy, blood, nudity, onscreen gore, characters could not curse nor could they commit crimes without being punished and the good guys must always win. This all changed in 1968 when the New Hollywood movement started.
The New Hollywood movement is a time in film history that changed Hollywood forever. This era brought in many famous directors including, Martin Scoresse, Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Influenced by grindhouse films and artsy foreign films, the movies of this era threw away the rules of the Hays code and showed that you could make a successful film on a lower budget. One of the most notable films of this era was Bonnie and Clyde.
Bonnie and Clyde was directed by Athur Penn and starred Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as the infamous 1930s bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrows. In many ways the film is a prime example of the new Hollywood movement. For one, it was shot on a really low budget and given a real documentary-type look. This captured a side to the 1930s that films in the 30’s failed to capture themselves. Many many films from that time from the great depression either pretended the world was a happy place, or kind of made fun of it (example Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times).
Bonnie and Clyde on the other hand gave the era a very barren wastleland feel with poverty and sketchy people everywhere. The film also plays with the “crime doesn’t pay” rule. While our bank robber couple does get their just desserts in the end, we are constantly shown a moral human side to them. A scene in the bank shows them refusing to steal money from a regular person, and the whole gang is shown time and time again to have a loving family type view of each other (for the most part), as well as an emotional scene where Bonnie’s mother disowns her and we are then given a scene of her devastated over the fact that she no longer has family. If this was an older film, Bonnie and Clyde would most likely be portrayed as cackling criminals with zero redeeming qualities.
The level of violence was also much more detailed than what casual movie goers were used to. While it didn’t have the over the top gore that drive in B-horror films of the time were known for (including Night of the Living Dead released that same year), the violence was very visceral and you felt it when characters were shot and or killed. This was helped by the films low budget documentary-like look and feel.
Little scenes here and there feel like the film was celebrating its friend from the code including showing Bonnie and Clyde in the same bed and innocent people cheering the bank robbers.
As is seen, Bonnie a prime example of New Hollywood and along with Planet of the Apes, Night of the Living Dead, Rosmary’s Baby, and 2001: A Space Odyessy that 1968 was the true start of New Hollywood.