After losing Sally Menke earlier this week, news broke today that yet another film legend has left us. It's been a sad 48 hours for film buffs.
News broke this morning that director Arthur Penn, the auteur behind classics like The Miracle Worker and Bonnie and Clyde, died Tuesday night just a day after his 88th birthday.
You can read coverage of his death from the New York Times here.
Though he's best known for the envelope-pushing Bonnie and Clyde, which was considered revolutionary both for its sexuality and violence at the time of its release (what a death scene), Penn was also known as a sensitive and finely-tuned social commentator, and the quintessential actor's director.
My first encounter with Arthur Penn's work, like many of my generation, was a classroom viewing of his second film, The Miracle Worker. I was too young then to really know what filmmaking meant in terms of either art or science, but I knew the flick was powerful. It's a testament to Penn's precision and deep sensitivity to emotional rhythms. Every scene is pitch perfect.
And as for Bonnie and Clyde, well...few films will ever reach the level of cultural impact that one had, and still has. I, of course, wasn't alive when it was initially released, but simply measuring in terms of how often it's written about, discussed and re-affirmed by those of us who care about such things, it's right up there with Birth of a Nation, Gone with the Wind and Star Wars. It's a defining moment in American cinema, plain and simple.
Most of all what I think of when I think of Arthur Penn was his ability to teach. I've watched countless hours of Inside the Actors Studio, but I never learned more than in the single hour he spent sitting across from James Lipton. He was a selfless emissary of great film, great theatre, great acting and great storytelling.