Arthur Penn. Throwing the first name in here as well because Sean Penn (no relation) has also directed a few archiveable films. Arthur Penn was choosy in his projects- he directed only 13 films—but 9 of them landed in the archives (even if some cinema enthusiasts will object to me including a couple of his Brando collaborations like The Chase and The Missouri Breaks). He’s not a style-plus director, but Bonnie and Clyde exceptionally well directed. He only has two films in the top 100 of their respective decade (which is a weakness) but even his 5th best film (Alice’s Restaurant) is an Arthur Penn film and that’s saying something.
Best film: Bonnie and Clyde. It made stars of Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and gave us a preview of Gene Hackman. It (along with The Graduate), changed Hollywood and American filmmaking (this is a 1970’s film that was made and released in 1967). It’s the beginning of the American New Wave if you will. All of this doesn’t mean that that Bonnie and Clyde isn’t an exceptional film (it is) or that Arthur Penn doesn’t direct the hell out of it (he does). There are some gorgeous mise-en-scene frame set-ups (below) and the final sequence features editing and the use of slow-motion that reaches the level of capital-A Art— foreshadowing the beautiful ballet of bullets films like The Wild Bunch.
total archiveable films: 9
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (Bonnie and Clyde)
top 100 films of the decade: 2 (Bonnie and Clyde, Little Big Man)
most overrated: There’s nothing here for Penn. Penn only has one film in the TSPDT consensus top 1000 and that’s Bonnie and Clyde at #242. I have that same film at #203 currently so yeah—nothing that is overrated.
most underrated: Little Big Man. It’s an exceptional narrative—an entertaining yarn led by Dustin Hoffman (absolutely on top of the world in 1970) and it is certainly one of the best 1000 films ever made— even if it can’t find a spot on the TSPDT list.
gem I want to spotlight: Mickey One. This is a flawed but visually ambitious film directly influenced by the French New Wave. It’s a precursor to Bonnie and Clyde (both a pairing of Penn/Beatty and the New Wave influence).
stylistic innovations/traits: As we head down the list we’re going to run into more and more auteurs that are content or subject-driven (think Stanley Kramer—though it’ll be awhile before we get to him- haha) instead of always being visually stylistically driven. There’s some of both here for Penn. Yes, you can feel the influence of the New Wave in multiple films (Mickey One, Bonnie and Clyde) in the bold visuals. But, subverting the norm or cultural/political status-quo is also a trait throughout Penn’s work and certainly is heavy here in Bonnie and Clyde, Alice’s Restaurant, Little Big Man and Night Moves. Through Penn, we side with robbers vs. FBI/Government/banks (the establishment), hippies vs. police/army/establishment, and Native Americans over Cowboys/Army/establishment. This may not seem like a big thing now—but in 1967-1970 this was revolutionary. Also, though it doesn’t always come through in the rest of his work you can’t talk about Penn and style without talking about the editing during the shootout of Bonnie and Clyde—transcendence in art through style.
- Bonnie and Clyde
- Little Big Man
- Night Moves
- Mickey One
- Alice’s Restaurant
- The Miracle Worker
- The Left handed Gun
- The Chase
- The Missouri Breaks
By year and grades
|1958- The Left Handed Gun||R|
|1962- The Miracle Worker||R|
|1965- Mickey One||R|
|1966- The Chase||R|
|1967- Bonnie and Clyde||MP|
|1969- Alice’s Restaurant||R|
|1970- Little Big Man||MS|
|1975- Night Moves||R|
|1976- The Missouri Breaks||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
Love The Chase & Little Big Man. Love Arthur Penn.
@KidCharlemagne . Thanks for the note here. I do, too. I took a 1970’s film class in college and watched move of these. Some Penn’s works have largely been forgotten now but how exciting Arthur Penn and his films must have been in that era.