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A Look At The Moss, Father/Son Relationship In Bonnie And Clyde

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Penn's Bonnie and Clyde, is looked at as a movie which is visually
stunting. Grotesque killing and loud gun fights are the primary reason
people remember this movie. But when Penn made this movie, he wanted more
than a shoot 'em up action movie. He strived for something with more beef,
something that we could sink our teeth into, to love and to hate someone at
the same time. The relationship that I am most interested in, and will
address in this paper, is the relationship of C.W. Moss and his father,
which is brought to life predominantly in two scenes. The first starts when
C. W. pulls into his fathers driveway in the country. The second, is a
scene that starts on the porch of his fathers home. C.W. and his father
engage in a conversation with Bonnie and Clyde. C.W. and his father soon
leave this scene and move to the kitchen. It is only but short time after
we meet C.W.'s father, we can already begin to know what their relationship
is all about. Their values and lifestyle are all made apparent almost
immediately when they are first seen in the movie. C.W. Moss's father is
clearly the dominant figure in the relationship This is demonstrated by
many uses of cinematics and Penn's attention to detail.
The dominating relationship is very apparent through the eye of the
camera. In cinematography, the camera can be used to show a number of
things to the viewer that we wouldn't notice in real life. Closeups of
hands under a sink, or a birds eye view of a gun fight. These are ways of
manipulating the camera to make the viewer feel how the director wishes
them to feel. In the 2 scenes which I am analyzing, Penn, uses these
techniques to show the distribution of power, in the Moss relationship.
The distance of the camera from it's subject plays a crucial role
in presenting the level of power a character has to the audience. The first
shot, in the first scene that begins the relationship, is a long shot. The
shot contains the front porch, the car and the two characters. The father
is framed so that he is taller than C.W. right off. This is the first clue
to the father's domination. The next shot that demonstrates the
distribution of power is the close up of the fathers head looking into the
car. This shot is a reaction shot, as he looks at the shot up Bonnie and
Clyde. Nothing else is seen but him. It is almost shocking how the shot
appears within the continuity of the scene. As the viewer, you don't expect
a closeup cut that quick due to his position when you last see him before
the cut. ( will elaborate on this point more in editing ) In the second
scene, camera distance plays a big role as well. On the porch the camera is
always a medium shot which includes C.W.'s paper and up. The father but on
the other hand receives a much tighter shot form the camera. Subtle it may
be, the camera is always in medium shot that is chest and up. Moving into
the kitchen, the camera now uses it's full ability to show power in
distance. The scene starts with a long shot showing the father throw C.W.
across the room. As the scene moves on, each shot gets closer and closer to
each of the actors, until their face fills the screen, interrupted only by
certain outbursts, like the throwing of soup. Another shot that was out of
the "close up" sequence was a shot where the father is at the sink in the
upper left in focus and C.W. is out of focus in the lower right. This
effect gives you the feeling of being C.W.; feeling faded and unimportant.
Know matter how close the camera gets to C.W., it is always closer to the
The angle of the camera also plays a big role in the exhibition of
power. Throughout the whole scene, the father's head appears above C.W.'s.
Examples of this can be drawn from the whole seen. The shots which stand
out the most are, when the father greets the arriving son from the porch,
and the low angle shot taken form off the porch, when C.W. gets up form his
swing and walks ...

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