R.I.P. Dede Allen, Film Editor

by |
04/20/2010 11:45 AM |

The death this past weekend of Dede Allen, Oscar-nominated editor, has been widely reported, but it would be petty and disrespectful of me not to mention it just because I don’t have much to add to Matt Singer’s obit, Matt Zoller Seitz’s characteristically in-depth appreciation, and the clips and commentary posted by S.T. VanAirsdale.

Now does seem as good a moment as any to rewatch the Bonnie and Clyde death scene…

Allen here became the first editor to receive sole credit for cutting a movie, one of several ways in which her cutting in Bonnie and Clyde changed the world. There’s a lot going on here (the birds, at once functional and symbolic, are a nice touch), especially the endlessly influential decision to go to slow-mo, aestheticizing the violence. (If I’m not mistaken, Benton and Newman’s original script had the shootout represented in a series of still photos.) But I’ve always been most touched by the last communication between Bonnie and Clyde—the way Allen cuts their glances together, so that we see recognition and acceptance coming over Beatty and Dunaway’s faces in far too little time before the gunfire opens up, is breathtaking, and is the basis for the scene’s audacious emotional impact. If Bonnie and Clyde “puts the sting back in death,” as Pauline Kael famously claimed, the late Dede Allen deserves a lot of the credit.