"WHAT'S THAT ON YOUR CHEST BOY?"
A Look at the Moss, Father/Son Relationship in Bonnie and Clyde



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
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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
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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 father.
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