If you want to write a book about me then there is one thing you must put in: money. The cinema is all money but the money figures twice: first yon spend all your time running to get the money to make the film but then in the film the money comes back again, in the image.
Godard in conversation
Before starling work ou Sauve « jui pent., Godard had spent over six months trying to persuade Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton to star in The Story. Difficulties in the negotiation s finally decided him to .start work first on Sauve qui pout but by then he had already written an extensive script of the projected American film. This script is itself a remarkable document, as Godard illustrates the development of the narrative with a montage of photographs, mainly pulled from previous Keaton and De Niro films. The story’ of the title refers to Godard’s film itself, to the fictional blind child that Keaton and De Niro have in the film, who is, in some sense, the story of their broken relationship, and, finally, to a film Bugsy that a mutual acquaintance of theirs. Frankie is making. It is their work on Frankie’s film thaï brings Keaton, as a researcher. and de Niro, as a cameraman, together again in Las Vegas after years of separation. The film concentrates on the historical links between organised crime and Hollywood but Bugsy will never be made because Frankie dies in a road accident arranged by the Mafia. But we learn a great deal about the projected film and about the character Bugsy Siegel, a legendary Mafia figure who was a friend of Hollywood stars and was engaged in the various film-union rackets before being shot to death. At the beginning of Godard’s film, Frankie comes to the airport to meet Diane and as they drive into town he talks of his film. He says that
'It’d be a good idea to start the story in a documentary style, at the very moment that the evening lights go up like the desire in people’s eyes. People have been working all day long for the industry of the day, in factories and offices. Now they're going to work for the industry' of the night: the money earned during the day will be spent on the night of sex, of gambling and of dreams.'
The text continues with the cryptic phrase. ‘ Let the images flow faster than money does’. It is the relation between money and images and the work and desire implicated in that relation which can provide a starting point for an analysis of Godard’s films.
Frankie, a film-maker, wants his images to hide their financial determinations, to escape their economic basis so they can function effectively as a phantasy. Godard's project is the direct reverse — Co slows down the images until the money appears and (tie phantasy displays its very constitution. And although there can be no question of a simple development — a linear progress towards an ever more comprehensive view — it is undoubtedly the case that the significance of money in Godard's work undergoes a series of transformations. Initially, two images of money are opposed — on the one hand, there is money in is a normal social function where it is understood within a context of work and frustration and, on the other, (here is criminal money which functions within a context of desire and liberation. These initial images which were, and still arc, current in the commercial cinema were transformed by Godard until they produced a critique of the image itself. The relation between desire and money in the image was connected to the relation between desire and money which is the very condition of the image and thus to the position of the spectator. The move from a particular film lo the institution of cinema and the question of the political conditions of existence of that institution are traced particularly clearly in Godard’s work. The condition of this movement is an obsession with the position of woman in the image which leads inevitably to the question of the economic conditions of existence of these images. Nothing more clearly indicates Godard’s later preoccupations than the fact that criminal money in The Story does not appear in relation to a particular character’s desires but in relation to the institution of cinema: the early financing of Hollywood.
In A bout de souffle (Breathless) the narrative development turns around the fact that the money which Michel Poiccard, the character played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, came to Paris to collect and which will allow him to flee to Rome is in the form of a crossed cheque which he cannot cash. This money caught up in a social nexus of financial institutions is opposed to the cash which Belmondo steals from both friends and strangers and which enables him to satisfy his desires without delay, be they to take Patricia (Jean Seberg) out to dinner or to buy himself breakfast. These two types of money set up an opposition between a restrictive social world and one of individual freedom, a series of relations understood within the film as the opposition between normal ‘cowardly' lâche behaviour and abnormal ‘ normal’ behaviour. This opposition is mapped on to sexual difference through the contrast between Patricia's concern with work and a career and Michel’s determination lo live only for the moment. Patricia's final betrayal of Michel is no surprise to the spectator because Michel has already told us that the attraction of her physical appearance cannot disguise the fact that she is a lâche. Woman's attractive appearance hides the reality of her attachment to the social relations which men wish to escape. It is m these terms that one can understand Godard's repeated statement that it is one of his films that he likes least and that he finds it fascist. Its fascism resides in its refusal of the reality of social relations and the propagation of the myth of an existence outside those relations. If A bout de souffle represents the criminal as someone who has abolished any restraint on desire, Godard’s later films reveal this image as too simple, as indeed an image of money which disregards the money in the image.
excerpt from GODARD: IMAGES, SOUNDS, POLITICS by Colin MacCabe