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Model Shop

Posted by martinteller on January 9, 2014

26-year-old George Matthews (Gary Lockwood) is an out-of-work architect.  His car is about to be repossessed, his girlfriend Gloria (Alexandra Hay) is fed up with his lack of commitment and he’s been called up to the draft.  As he goes around town trying to borrow money from his friends to make his car payment, he spots an attractive lady.  He follows her to the Model Shop, an establishment where patrons can rent time in a backroom studio to take lurid pictures of one of their girls.  He books a room with the lady, who he discovers is Lola (Anouk Aimée).  He spends time with her, learns about her past, and falls in love.

I recently promised myself I was going to try to quit wasting time on movies I wasn’t that invested in watching.  I wish I’d applied that pledge to this one.  As a follow-up to Demy’s vibrant debut Lola, it’s terribly drab, lifeless.  A lot of it is just Lockwood driving around L.A., listening to either classical music or the lame fusion-rock band Spirit (who also appear in the film).  It seems to be striving for an Antonioni-like meditative quality, but doesn’t go far enough to achieve the same effect.  So much of the movie is a lot of tedious filler.  And it’s filling space between scenes that are almost as uninteresting.  Demy’s first American film suffers the same problem that many European directors’ first films face: the dialogue is stilted and the performances are bland.  Maybe this is appropriate if Demy is indeed going for an Antonioni vibe, but it’s not very fun.  Lockwood’s stiff performance — not far off from the intentionally uncharismatic one he gave in 2001: A Space Odyssey — makes George seem pretty much like a dick.  I don’t care if this guy loses his stupid car or gets killed in Vietnam.  I don’t care about his impulsive feelings towards Lola.

Speaking of Lola, Aimée doesn’t fare much better.  Lola had moved to America with her husband and son.  They sent the child back to France after experiencing some financial problems… caused by the husband’s gambling and affairs.  They eventually divorced and now Lola is just trying to earn enough to get back to France.  Cheery, huh?  All that vivaciousness from the first film has been sucked out of her.  It’s a real bummer of a movie, to be honest.  Not depressing, because that would require it to be emotionally affecting.  Just kind of a drag.  Although there is some vivid use of color, one really misses that beautiful, lyrical Coutard camerawork.  George talks about the “baroque” beauty of Los Angeles, but all we see are bland storefronts and streets with no personality.  It’s such a dreary experience.  Maybe this was Demy’s pessimistic mood at the time — he killed off Lola‘s Frankie in the war — but give me something to latch onto, some kind of point.

You’re far better off watching The Graduate, which covers somewhat similar themes but with a whole lot more humor and insight (not to mention a superior soundtrack).  Demy’s take on the disaffected youth of the late 60’s is as hollow and wooden as its protagonist.  Rating: Poor (51)


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