Bonnie

Dead, Man

There was a time when Dennis Hopper exulted in the reputation of being the first kid who knew what was wrong with Hollywood. What he said, more or less, was that the movies have gone dead, man, that it’s just old-timers doing it all on automatic pilot, that there’s no truth, anymore, man, and they won’t put me in lead parts. There was some truth in what he said, and it was certainly the case that a number of veteran directors found Hopper an intolerable smart-ass who said he had known Jimmy--Jimmy Dean--and that what he was saying now was only what Dean would have said.

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Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America By Peter Biskind (Simon & Schuster, 627 pp., $30)   Warren Beatty has not done a lot for us lately. Town and Country, his last movie, was nine years ago. The absence is such that some of his old associates have concluded that he may be happy at last. But I doubt that such a hope lingered more than a few seconds: Beatty’s entire act has been the epitome of dissatisfaction.

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On a Wednesday night in San Francisco, opening night, in a theater no more than half full, the truth was as inescapable as rain at a picnic. Johnny Depp just wasn’t cutting it. He wasn’t even making the attempt. Once again, Michael Mann had poured his nearly liquid talent over a gangster picture without ever thinking to ask himself why. That oddly vague title Public Enemies--why isn’t it called Johnny D. or just Dillinger?--was turning into a startlingly detached and affectless movie.

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Bonnie and Clyde  Warner Brothers "I have a bad memory for facts," Stendhal once wrote, and Flaubert said later that "everything the artist invents is true." I don't mean to imply that Arthur Penn, the director of Bonnie and Clyde, or Robert Benton and David Newman, its writers, have anything like that kind of stature, but the principles hold up.

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