Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Arthur Penn (1922-2010)

The director of Bonnie and Clyde has died hours after celebrating his 88th birthday. Penn's moment in the vanguard of American cinema was relatively brief, and he had the good fortune to inherit a project designed for both Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, but given the opportunity the director rose to the occasion and helped change the entire attitude of popular cinema in this country. That the one film wasn't a fluke was proven, at least in my own experience, by his earlier emotional success with the movie version of The Miracle Worker (1962), a play he'd directed on stage, and his later western Little Big Man (1970), a sentimental favorite of mine because it was probably my father's favorite film. The only other Penn film that I've seen is the bravely eccentric western The Missouri Breaks (1976), but other efforts have their champions. While history may remember Warren Beatty as the ultimate auteur of Bonnie and Clyde, this is a time to give Penn's own artistic courage its due.

Update: On an unintentionally lighter note, Diane Sawyer on ABC News has just described Bonnie and Clyde as "the Romeo and Juliet of crime." WTF? You might as well say that Romeo and Juliet were the Bonnie and Clyde of Verona, though that idea does start my imagination working....

1 comment:

Judy said...

I love 'The Left-handed Gun', which I re-watched recently - the DVD has a great commentary by Penn himself where it is clear how much he loved the film even decades later, and how frustrated he was by some of the cuts and changes made by an editor brought in by the studio. Don't think I've seen much else by Penn as yet.