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  Model Shop Welcome To L.A.
Year: 1969
Director: Jacques Demy
Stars: Anouk Aimée, Gary Lockwood, Alexandra Hay, Carol Cole, Tom Holland, Severn Darden, Neil Elliot, Jacqueline Mille, Duke Hobbie, Anne Randall, Craig Littler, Hilary Thompson, Jon Lawson, Jean Sorel, Jon Hill, Jay Ferguson, Fred Willard
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: George Matthews (Gary Lockwood) wakes up in his bed next to actress girlfriend Gloria (Alexandra Hay) and as they murmur their good mornings the doorbell rings. They're not expecting anyone but he goes to the door anyway to find a man telling him he's about to reposssess his vintage car, but after a degree of persuasion and back up from Gloria, George manages to convince the man he will have the necessary cash for him that afternoon. The trouble is, he doesn't, and must now go around to the friends he knows to see if anyone is able to lend it to him...

In the late sixties, Hollywood was scanning around for talent to bring in the burgeoning youth market who were finding their productions old hat and not speaking to them, and Jacques Demy, whose French films had made waves around the world, was recruited by one of the big studios to bring some magic to their schedule, and with any luck some much needed profits into the bargain. So Model Shop was a French film made in Hollywood, and one of the number of such efforts with foreigners taking an outsider's look at America that basically flopped. However, as with most of Demy's work it did pick up a cult following, mostly thanks to the way his camera roved around the streets of Los Angeles.

In this manner you could regard Model Shop as a road movie that happened not to be set along the highways, but within the boundaries of the city: more than once the director simply sticks the camera in George's fancy car and has him drive around, seemingly aimlessly. That sense of a man who has lost his direction in life, if he ever had one really, was neatly summed up in the rambling through the streets, and Lockwood's weirdly uncharismatic performance not only made it clear why Stanley Kubrick thought he was ideal as the ill-fated astronaut in 2001: A Space Odyssey (he's offering the same blank readings) but also why Demy thought this character was the perfect conduit to observe Los Angeles through.

Gloria leaves the action early on to reappear later, so there was a void needing filling in the female lead department which Demy had his star from Lola, Anouk Aimée take the place of, here apparently playing the same woman who now has a history to her. She is spotted, what else, driving around by George and he decides to follow her, tracing her to her mansion home and later to her place of work, which turns out to be the shop of the title where young women are photographed in states of undress by supposed shutterbugs, though we can guess what they do with their snaps once they get them home - no, not submit them to Time magazine. George poses as one of these men to get close to Lola.

His second attempt at that is the more successful, and he strikes up a conversation with this lady which seems in his mind to be going somewhere: direction at last! All the way through George claims to want to shake up the architecture industry which he has been trained in but has left in disillusionment, and now must face the draft as the spectre of the war in Vietnam looms large. As it becomes clear, if he refuses to have a purpose in life one will be supplied for him, and cannon fodder looks to be it for our taciturn hero, though he does not stage much of a protest as his existence dribbles by and he becomes one of those nobody in particular people apparently present on the planet to fill up the numbers rather than perform any significant role. The stilted acting could be blamed on Demy's unfamiliarity with the English language, but such is the shiftless quality of Model Shop that's not the whole story as he appeared to be summing up a generation fast losing its way. If you can get on with the glacial mood, that was quite affecting. Music by hippy band Spirit, who show up too.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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