Arthur Penn, the director of one of the greatest films of all time, Bonnie & Clyde (1967) has passed away.
The AP reports:
NEW YORK (AP) — Director Arthur Penn, a myth-maker and myth-breaker who in such classics as “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Little Big Man,” refashioned movie and American history and sealed a generation’s affinity for outsiders, died Tuesday night, a day after his 88th birthday.
…Penn’s other films included his adaptation of “The Miracle Worker,” featuring an Oscar-winning performance by Anne Bancroft; “The Missouri Breaks,” an outlaw tale starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson; “Night Moves,” a Los Angeles thriller featuring Gene Hackman; and “Alice’s Restaurant,” based on the wry Arlo Guthrie song about being turned down for the draft because he had once been fined for littering.
Although it won’t likely be listed in many tributes, Penn also directed a highly-underrated horror thriller in 1987, Dead of Winter, that I have never forgotten (and always appreciated). I saw it in a theater in Montclair, New Jersey with my Mom and Dad, and enjoyed the picture very much, especially the double performance of Mary Steenburgen and a creepy supporting turn by the great Roddy McDowall.
Bonnie & Clyde is an undisputed masterpiece, a daring blend of comedy and violence that at first romanticizes its action and then turns around — after brilliantly making the case for the titular outlaws as heroes — and punishes them with unbelievable, shocking violence.
And as expressively-edited and fast-paced as the classic Bonnie & Clyde remains, Alice’s Restaurant was the deliberate opposite in approach: a free-wheeling, loosely-structured, loosely-plotted comedy that epitomizes the counter-culture era in America. I love this film so much that I named one of the main characters in my series The House Between after Guthrie and his “character” in Alice’s Restaurant, Arlo.
If you were to watch Bonnie & Clyde, Dead of Winter and Alice’s Restaurant, you’d get a terrific sense of Penn’s versatility and talent.
Arthur Penn was really one of the greats, and I hope that film scholars and students will use the sad occasion of his passing to re-screen the director’s films, and remember his prodigious talent.