This was posted to Richard Grayson's MySpace blog on Wednesday, August 15, 2007:
Tuesday Evening at the McCarren Park Pool: "Bonnie and Clyde"
"I am sorry to say that 'Bonnie and Clyde' does not impress me as a contribution to the thinking of our times or as wholesome entertainment."
So wrote New York Times movie critic Bosley Crowther on September 3, 1967, in a mystified response to the many letters attacking his negative review of the movie.
Crowther's long reign as Times film reviewer would end that November. He never seemed to understand the sea change in American movies.
I first saw Bonnie and Clyde 40 years ago during its original run at the long-gone Brook Theater by Flatbush and Flatlands Avenues. On Tuesday evening, I got to see it on a big screen again as the penultimate film in the McCarren Pool's Summerscreen series.
As usual, most of the audience sat in folding chairs or blankets on the south half of the drained pool. With the recently landmarking and the Bloomberg administration's plans for the pool uncertain, 2007 could be the last summer for movies and concerts.
Everyone entering gets a sticker with a number. We're supposed to look for our "twin," someone wearing the same number, and if we find them, we both might win something. Wearing a number with the logo of Volkswagen (sponsor of the event along with The L Magazine and others) feels creepy to me, but several audience members are quite aggressive in trying to locate their "twin."
Blankets are placed a lot closer together than they would be at the beach, but no one seems to mind. I sit next to some film students at the School of Visual Arts, where I teach literature and writing, and one of them asks me if I had to be taken to see the movie by a parent, since I was only 16 in 1967 and it's rated R.
No, I went by myself, I say; the MPAA rating system wasn't implemented till later in 1968, probably because of movies like Bonnie and Clyde.
There's a vibrant pre-movie performance by Woodpecker!, a local bluegrass/punk/acoustic band who played the kind of music Flatt and Scruggs might be doing today if they were 25 and lived in Brooklyn.
As darkness descends, kitschy 1950s movie promos repeatedly tell us to head for the snack counter for delicious refreshments.
The film itself seems as fresh as ever, though probably not quite so startling 40 years after its debut. The crowd is quiet, with little talking, some picnicking, a bit of cigarette smoking, some chugging from oversized cans of beer. But basically everyone seems spellbound.
The biggest laugh among this mostly hipster crowd comes in the scene when Bonnie and Clyde's young accomplice C.W. Moss is upbraided by his father for getting a tattoo on his chest and defiling his body. The old man seems more upset by this than he is by his son's life of crime – pretty amusing in a crowd whose body art, if put on canvases, would take up a couple of floors of the Whitney.
The last Summerscreen movie of the summer is next week: Prince in Purple Rain. Anyone who knows what's the password can get in free.