Monday, June 12, 2017
Written and directed by Jacques Demy, Model Shop is the story of an unemployed architect who falls for a Frenchwoman in Los Angeles as he copes with his mortality and the direction of his life. The film is a sequel of sorts to Demy’s 1961 film Lola as it’s more about a man dealing with drawbacks in his life. Starring Gary Lockwood, Anouk Aimee, and Alexandra Hay. Model Shop is a fascinating though flawed film from Jacques Demy.
The film follows a day in the life of an architect who owes money over his car as he deals with being unemployed and becoming estranged with his girlfriend as he would follow a Frenchwoman around Los Angeles where she works at a model shop. It’s a film that doesn’t have much of a plot as it explores a man coping with his own existence as well as the direction in his life where he would get news that he’s being drafted for the army. The film’s script, which would feature English dialogue by Carol Eastman, doesn’t just follow the sense of ennui that the film’s protagonist George Matthews (Gary Lockwood) is dealing with but also the fact that he is going through a lot and the recent news that’s being drafted just makes things worse. It’s when he goes to a friend asking for money, despite the fact that he already owes the guy $50, is where he first encounters this Frenchwoman named Lola (Anouk Aimee).
In Lola, she’s someone who is living in Los Angeles trying to make ends meet as she befriends George and confides in him about wanting to return to France. Yet, she also talks about aspects of her own life which would reference a few of the films that Jacques Demy did including the 1961 film named after Lola as well as characters from another Demy film in Bay of Angels. She would appear in brief instances for the first two acts yet would really come into play for its third act where she meets George again after he had photographed her at the model shop. Especially as she, like George, is going through a phase of her life unsure of what to do next as well as the fact that they’re also struggling financially.
Demy’s direction is definitely ravishing in the way he shoots and frames everything around in the city of Los Angeles as it’s a major character in the film. Avoiding many of the known landmarks of the city, Demy’s direction focuses on some of the more urban areas as well as parts of the hippie communities at the time as well as bits of the posh side during the sequence in which George follows Lola as they’re driving to a posh resident. There’s a shot during that sequence in which George gets a look of Los Angeles in this beautiful view as it displays the world that George wants to be in but couldn’t conform to the expectations of the corporate world as his friends are from the hippie community. Demy’s compositions have this sense of precise framing in the way he views Los Angeles as well as the intimacy in the scenes at the model shop and at the homes of George and Lola. Demy doesn’t emphasize too much on style as he’s more concerned with George’ sense of ennui and lack of direction where it does meander the film at times in its pacing. Still, Demy does manage to focus on the story as well as create a wonderment of two people lost in Los Angeles. Overall, Demy creates an evocative film about a directionless man who meets and falls for a visiting Frenchwoman.
Cinematographer Michel Hugo does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it play into the gorgeous look of the locations in Los Angeles for the scenes in the day and nighttime exteriors. Editor Walter Thompson does nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some jump-cuts in some parts of the film. Production designer Kenneth A. Reid and set decorator Antony Mondello do fantastic work with the look of the homes that the characters live in as well as the interiors of the model shop. Costume designers Gene Ashman and Rita Riggs do terrific work with the costumes from the casual look of George to the stylish white dress of Lola. The sound work of Les Fresholtz, Arthur Piantadosi, and Charles J. Rice is superb as it captures the way airplanes sound flying by as well as the raucous world of the hippie community and the locations in Los Angeles. The film’s music by the band Spirit is amazing for its mixture of low-key folk rock music with bits of psychedelia that play into George’s journey as the soundtrack also include some classical music pieces.
The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles from Carol Cole as Lola’s roommate Barbara, Tom Holland (as Tom Fielding) as Gloria’s friend Gerry, Severn Darden as a camera shop owner, the band Spirit as themselves, and Alexandra Hay as George’s model girlfriend Gloria who is frustrated with his lack of progress in life. Gary Lockwood is alright as George as this man who copes with his impending draft notice as well as lack of direction where it’s not a bad performance but not a very engaging one as it’s a major flaw of the film. Especially as he wasn’t the original choice for the role as Demy wanted a then-unknown actor by the name of Harrison Ford for the role which would’ve made it more interesting. Finally, there’s Anouk Aimee in an incredible performance as Lola as a Frenchwoman who is trying to make ends meet working at a model shop as she tries to return home to be with her son as she is intrigued by George while lamenting her own situation in life.
Model Shop is a stellar though somewhat lackluster film from Jacques Demy. Despite Gary Lockwood’s somewhat bland performance, the film still offers something intriguing in terms of its visuals, music soundtrack, and Anouk Aimee’s radiant performance. In the end, Model Shop is a fine film from Jacques Demy.
Jacques Demy Films: (Lola (1961 film)) - Bay of Angels - The Umbrellas of Cherbourg - The Young Girls of Rochefort - Donkey Skin - (The Pied Piper (1972 film)) - A Slightly Pregnant Man - (Lady Oscar) - (La Naissance du Jour) – Une chambre en ville - (Parking (1985 film)) - (Three Places for the 26th) - (Turning Table)
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