Reviews and notes
Like a traveler who falls in love with a place without really knowing why, Jacques Demy’s first and only American film, Model Shop
, lilts around late-sixties Los Angeles looking for beauty and connection in some simple, profound ways. An emotionally lost young man (Gary Lockwood) follows a weary European model (Anouk Aimée) into the amateur studio where she gets paid to let customers take boudoir photos of her. Voyeurism, consumerism, and war are all discussed as the long smoggy day and endless auto trips across town begin to shift the course of their alienated, wistful lives. Demy captured Angelino locations galore for this heavy-hearted romance, and following his gaze across the newly minted city (the real star of the film) has all the swooning nostalgia of an old hippie travelogue from the peak of an era.
- New Beverly Cinema
, Jacques Demy's first American movie, looks and sounds like a film made by a sensitive tourist. The French director (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
, The Young Girls of Rochefort
) brings back Lola, the beautiful, emotionally dented leading character of his first movie, and transplants her from Nantes to Los Angeles. Abandoned by her husband, Lola works in a garish little photographic studio — a kind of house of prostitution for the inhibited — where a customer can rent a camera and a girl and take his own pictures. Although Gary Lockwood and Anouk Aimée (the original Lola) are the stars of Model Shop
, they obviously aren't as important to Demy as Los Angeles.
Lockwood, a young, disoriented architect about to go to Vietnam, calls the city "pure poetry", and Demy pictorially defines this in a series of loving, nightmarish explorations of that solid-state grid of boulevards, parking lots, two-story loft buildings, drugstores, supermarkets and beach houses. Demy is almost right. In Model Shop
you don't experience Los Angeles as often as you read it, on billboards and neon signs, in a freeze-dried vocabulary of words like Sale, Eat, Wash and Service.
Even the dialogue has a linear quality. Speeches sound as if they had originally been long subtitles translating the original French. This is only one of the reasons that nothing in Model Shop
quite connects with anything else. The screenplay by Demy ("English dialogue by Adrien Joyce") is as aimless and well-meaning as its characters, who are always getting in and out of automobiles in search of something better, constantly accompanied by music (Bach, rock, Schumann and Rimsky-Korsakov), sometimes heard on the car radios, sometimes — quite arbitrarily — on the soundtrack.
Specifically, the movie covers 24 hours in the life of a disenchanted young man (Lockwood), whose affair with a staggeringly dense, would-be actress (Alexandra Hay) is breaking up. He meets Miss Aimée, falls in love with her, and after much coffee house philosophy about war, marriage, love and politics, they part. None of this, however, is as pure or poetic as the city that surrounds them. They talk in big, heavy swatches of exposition, punctuated from time to time by selfconscious messages from the author. "Do I bore you?" Miss Aimée asks during one very long speech, which is the tip-off that Demy knows that we know that the movie has gotten away from him.
Miss Aimée is a fine, striking-looking woman, but her natural elegance makes her appearance in the rent-a-girl studio something of a sight gag. (Her leg tendons are rather pronounced for cheesecake work.) Lockwood is good as the young man, but he's always an American actor in what is basically, spiritually, a foreign film. Miss Hay's work can't be precisely evaluated. It's impossible to tell how much of her edgy clumsiness is good acting or inexperience.
- Vincent Canby, The New York Times. 12 February 1969.
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