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Road Movies. A couple on the run: Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967). What are road movies?. ‘Introduction’ by Steven Cohan and Ina Rae Mark in Road Movie Book

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road movies

Road Movies

A couple on the run:

Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

what are road movies
What are road movies?
  • ‘Introduction’ by Steven Cohan and Ina Rae Mark in Road Movie Book
  • ‘The 1969 ad campain for Easy Rider exclaims, “A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere,” and this much-remembered sentiment condenses what is typically taken for granted as the ideological project of a road movie, regardless of what travel narrative it specifically recounts.’ Cohan and Mark Quest / Search
what are road movies1
What are road movies?
  • Road movies are too cool to address seriously socio-political issues. Instead, they express the fury and suffering at the extremities of civilised life, and give their restless protagonists the false hope of a one-way ticket to nowhere … road movies are cowled in lurking menace, spontaneous mayhem and dead-end fatalism, never more than few roadstops away from abject lawlessness and haphazard bloodletting … road movies have always been songs of the doomed, warnings that once you enter the open hinterlands between cities, you’re on your own.’ Micahel Atkinson
  • Fatalism - their adventure ends up in tragedy
what are road movies2
What are road movies?
  • A road movie provide a ready space for exploration of the tensions and crises of the historical moment during which it is produced. Cohan and Mark
  • The Great Depression, the 1960s, the early 1990s
  • A Hollywood genre - films that catches American dreams, tensions, and anxieties, even when imported by the motion picture industries of other nations.Cohan and Mark
what are road movies3
What are road movies?
  • Periodization - ‘a postwar phenomenon’ Timothy Corrigan
  • Road Movie finds its genric coherence in the coalescence of four related features: (1) the breakdown of the family unit (2) in the road movie events act upon the characters: the historical world is always too much of a conrtext, and objects along the road are usually menacing and materially assertive’
what are road movies4
What are road movies?

(3) The road protagonist readily identifies with the means of mechanized transportation, the automobile or motorcycle, which “becomes the only promise of self in a culture of mechanical reproduction” (4) ‘A genre traditionally focus, almost exclusively, on men and the absence of women’ Timothy Corrigan

what are road movies5
What are road movies?
  • The genre is defined by its repeated positioning of conservative values and rebellious desires … As a result, the road movie genre has repeatedly worked, first, to set in opposition two contrasting myths central to American ideology, that of individualism and that of populism, and second, to use the road to imagine the nation’s culture, that space between the western desert and the eastern seaboard, either as a utopian fantasy of homogeneity and national coherence, or as a dystopic nightmare of social difference and reactionary politics. David Laderman
  • A road movie is a dialectic of values and desires
history of road movies
History of Road Movies
  • Prototypes: films in the 1930s
  • The Grapes of Wrath; You Only Live Once; It Happned One Night (1934)
  • Later road movies were influenced by Jack Keruac’s On the Road (1957) Two buddies road travel
  • Paradigm shift: from heterosexual couples to buddies
real bonnie and clyde
Real Bonnie and Clyde
  • During the Great Depression Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow went on their two-year spree of robbery and violence (1932-34). The general attitude in the country was anti-government and Bonnie and Clyde were Robin Hood like popular anti-heroes capturing the imagination of the nation.
historic reference
Historic Reference
  • Nostalgic representation of the Depression era
  • Popular political and cultural ‘fantasy’ – anti-government and anti-establishment
historical reference
Historical Reference
  • The 1960s liberalism and counter-cultural movements in the USA gave filmmakers a perspective in re-interpreting history
  • Response to the class and race oppression
historical reference1
Historical Reference

‘It’s very interesting that during a screening of Bonnie and Clyde one evening, five Negros present there completely identified with Bonnie and Clyde. They were delighted. They said: “This is the way; that’s the way to go, baby. Those cats were all right.” They really understood, because in a certain sense the American Negro has the same kind of attitude of “I have nothing more to lose” that was true during the Depression for Bonnie and Clyde. It is true now of the American Negro. He is really at the point of revolution – it’s rebellion, not riot.’ Arthur Penn

Penn’s film not faithful to historical facts

Glamorization of the protagonists; Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway too good looking and sexy

Stylish costumes worn by the protagonists

Romanticizing ‘criminals’ and criminal actions

The conservative critiques reveal the truth about the film

  • Bonnie and Clyde free themselves from the prison house of labour, domesticity, and social immobility
  • Film is fantasy of escape
  • The sense of doom: their escape never succeeds
  • (Film’s tragic closure)
road movie styles
Road Movie Styles
  • Certain classic road-movie shots
  • View from the outside of a car; a front window frame characters inside the car
road movie styles1
Road Movie Styles
  • Characters caught in camera from a side window of a car
road movie styles2
Road Movie Styles
  • Characters with a car