JHL/JLG: WOMEN AND MONEY
“Two things matter in life. For men, it’s women, and for women, money” says the writer Parvulesco played by Jean-Pierre Melville in Godard's À bout de souffle (1960). It certainly seems to be the case in the Noir B-movies that Godard so admired at the time he was making his first feature, and this tale of money, amour fou and betrayal can clearly be read as a dramatisation of this philosophy of life. Dedicated to Monogram Pictures, the Poverty Row studio that produced several low-budget noirs such as the wonderful Decoy [Jack Bernhard 1946] (but not Gun Crazy [Joseph H. Lewis, 1949] contrary to what Marc Cerisuelo has written), À bout de souffle is full of references to classics of the genre, from the figure of Bogart to parroted snippets of dialogue from Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer 1945). The issue of Gun Crazy's influence is problematic. Without any explicit reference to Gun Crazy (unlike the Jim McBride remake Breathless  which goes so far as to include a scene in which the protagonists are watching Lewis's film) it's hard to gauge Godard's precise position on the film at the time he was creating À bout de souffle. What seem like obvious allusions to Lewis's film might as easily be references to a myriad of other sources, cinematic and otherwise. Furthermore, there is nothing about Gun Crazy in Godard's prolific journalism before and during that period and he doesn't include it on his 'Ten Best American Sound Films' list of 1964, a list in which the titles seem less important to Godard than is the opportunity to make a chart of the great auteurs of Hollywood cinema. Did he see Gun Crazy as a guilty pleasure? Wasn't Lewis seen as a true auteur in the same way as his compatriots? Two other films with links to the Bonnie and Clyde story, You Only Live Once and They Live By Night, were made by auteurs featured on Godard's list, Lang and Ray respectively.
Given these speculations, it's even more moving for Lewis and Gun Crazy fans when a clip from the film turns up in episode 3b 'Une Vague Nouvelle' , the chapter of Histoire(s) du Cinéma devoted to the origins of the Nouvelle Vague.
In Noir films like Gun Crazy, only sex and money offer any hope of transcending the banality of the everyday, of attaining a kind of existential truth that will allow passage out of the lie of the mundane, even if it means many must die along the way. Most often the promise is of sex for men, money for women (hence the incessant betrayals and the prominence in the genre of the femme fatale) and this is echoed in Parvulesco's aphorism in À bout de souffle.
In Histoire(s) du Cinéma, Gun Crazy allows Godard to hitch his more recent concerns about the End of Art and History, enslaved as they are to the capitalist circulation of money and commodities, to his youthful enthusiasm for Noir and its lessons about women and money. The excerpt from Lewis's film (in a snippet of the famous long take, we see Laurie strike the cop before she and Bart hop in the get-away car following the bank-heist) is preceded by a title 'La Monnaie de l'Absolu' [The Currency of the Absolute] (an iteration of the title of Chapter 3A of the Histoire(s)) and is accompanied by the following dialogue from Solo (Jean-Piere Mocky, 1970) :
[elle :] dans tous les pays où il y a des hommes