Film Editing in Bonnie and Clyde

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Considered as one of the most important films of the 1960s for its innovative content, Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde made significant contributions to development of editing in modern filmmaking. Rather than rely on plot alone, Dede Allen used the editing of time and space to not only communicate the violent nature of certain scenes, but also integrate the underlying tone of sexuality within the film. This is seen throughout the film, from Bonnie and Clyde’s first meeting to their final deaths. A great example of editing in the film is the scene following Bonnie and Clyde’s initial introduction, which creates an understanding for the film’s combination of violent acts with sexual attraction. This scene is edited to open with a close-up of Clyde’s face as he drinks from a soda bottle, which is somewhat phallic in its shape, suggesting a higher level of sexual prowess and experience. This is in contrast to the next shot, a close-up of Bonnie as she licks the rim of her bottle, suggesting curiosity Clyde and sexual prowess while also imparting her own inexperience. As the camera cuts to medium shot of the two characters, the audience is able to come to terms of the proximity of physical space within the scene. Finally, the part of the scene where Clyde shows his gun to Bonnie is edited to show a close-up of Bonnie stroking the gun, which not only heightens the sexual nature of violence within the film but also foreshadows upcoming scenes.

The manipulation of time from an editing standpoint is also seen in the ambush scene at the ending of the film. As Clyde leaves his car to help the driver of the stalled car, the pace seems to slow in order to allow for detailed shots of what is occurring around the car. If this was shown in real time, though, this act would have occurred as a brief moment of time. This extension of time is also seen as this scene progresses to the climax of the film, when Clyde and Bonnie exchange a long look before the ambush of...
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