Like most French film directors associated with the Nouvelle Vague, or New Wave, Luc Moullet adored the American “primitives,” directors like Sam Fuller, who fashioned their movies with sharp bold strokes and resisted polishing them to a high Hollywood gloss.
Moullet started writing for the magazine Cahiers du cinéma at 18, became a professor, made a few pictures and wrote a book about director Fritz Lang. Several of Moullet’s movies have been recently released as double feature discs, including this one, which pairs The Smugglers (1967) with his only Western, which in France was known as Une aventure de Billy le Kid (1971).
A Girl is a Gun stars Jean-Pierre Léaud, Francois Truffaut’s frequent surrogate, as Billy le Kid, and the actor’s voice is dubbed into English—for French audiences!—by somebody with a drawl that sounds like Rip Torn on a four-day bender.
Léaud hops and scurries over the rocky hills like Groucho Marx. One minute he’s staring, completely vacant; the next, he’s rapid-fire barking nonsense like, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you were doin’ or where you were goin’, who I am, where I come from! No one cares, right?”
What’s really happening here is a combination send up and hommage of the Westerns Moullet admired or hated. The plot tells of a long-haired desperado, in striped bell bottoms, who falls in love with the zaftig Ann (Rachel Kesterber), a French Elly Mae Clampett, who is secretly seeking revenge for the Pa who Billy killed.
At heart, the story is the sort of loopy prattle one might hear coming late at night from Carl Spackler, Bill Murray’s Caddyshack groundskeeper, which is to say it lurches crazily, with an ever-changing landscape like an old Krazy Kat Sunday page. It’s definitely weird, but hardly funny enough to entice anyone but the most determined fan of the New Wave.