Plot: What’s it about?
Twilight Time continues to give film lovers what they want with their release of Jacque Demy’s Model Shop. A couple years ago, The Criterion Collection released an excellent box set of some of the very best Demy films. Unlike their excellent Tati collection, Criterion did not choose to release all of his films. One of the most notable exclusions from their box set was his 1969 film Model Shop. This film, while not Demy’s best, should have been included in the collection and I will explain why below.
As the film begins, a man named George (Gary Lockwood) wakes up next to a blonde woman. There is a gentleman at his door to repossess his car. He convinces them to give him until three in the afternoon to get the hundred bucks in back payments. He has been out of work since leaving the architecture firm of Hastings. His live-in girlfriend of more than a year wants to get serious or split and since George doesn’t want to get serious they split up. He heads into town to try to get a hundred bucks to save his car. At a car lot where a friend works, George is intrigued by the beautiful Lola (Anouk Aimee.) He casually follows her through the streets of L.A. until she arrives at a home overlooking the city. He leaves and picks up a hitchhiking girl who immediately rolls a joint in his car. George heads to a house where a band named Spirit is practicing. After scoring a little cash he heads to a pool hall and has some coffee. When Lola walks in to the shop, he follows her to a model shop where men can purchase time with models to take photos of them in a comfortable setting. As he takes photos of her, he speaks with her and admits that he had followed her. As the Vietnam draft becomes a possibility for George, he finds himself falling for Lola.
Model Shop is not Demy’s best film. It is also not his worst film (he made a few clunkers.) My personal favorite is the wonderful Bay of Angels. That movie is incredible. This film is interesting and worth checking out of you are a fan but has a few things working against it. The first problem is the most obvious – this was Demy’s first American film and it gives a distinct impression that some things are lost in translation. While Anouk Aimée is fantastic in French, and Gary Lockwood turned in a solid performance in 2001: a Space Odyssey, this film has trouble generating compelling performances. It seems like he was trying to direct them in French while they spoke English and there was some sort of disconnect. Lockwood in particular turns in a wooden performance that just doesn’t connect. The second problem is the attraction between the leads (and the sloppy way in which they are meant to connect, honestly) that never rings true. The third issue is that the film meanders and never seems to find a solid center. It just never quite lands the punch that it is trying to deliver. Emotional beats fall flat unintentionally despite the understanding of what was supposed to be felt by the audience.
So, that is the bad news. Here is the interesting part – I am glad that I have this film in my collection and glad that Twilight Time released it. If you are a fan of Demy there are some very good reasons for checking out the flick. First off, this film updates you on Lola, her son, Michel, and other characters from the classic film Lola. To know the complete story, this film fills in the epilogue. Second, this is Demy’s love letter to Los Angeles. Demy and Agnes Varda loved Los Angeles and this film makes that love of the city very clear. Third, the film does a good job of soaking in the cultural zeitgeist of the time. The Vietnam war makes its imprint. There are little posters everywhere of figures from Belmondo to Zappa along with the songs composed and performed by Spirit for the soundtrack. It feels very much part of its time.
At the end of the day, this film should be recommended to Demy fans that are already invested enough in his world of Nantes to want to see that world extended to Los Angeles. If you are not a Demy fan, I am not sure that this film will win you over. This is one of those films that I may find I like better on the second viewing, but first impression was a little bit of a let down for me.
Video: How’s it look?
Sony have provided Twilight Time with a great-looking new transfer in 1080p with an MPEG-4 AVC encoding and 1.85:1 aspect ratio from Columbia Pictures. A fine grain lies over the images of the film, but this lends itself to a good amount of detail. I was curious why Criterion had left this film out of the Demy set and watching the film I believe that they made a mistake. While not as visually compelling as Bay of Angels or The Young Girls of Rocheforte, it has the same amount of movement as Lola if it had been shot in color. Fans of the film will be pleased with the transfer.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Twilight Time have provided a good sounding track in English DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono. This track benefits from the score and music by the band Spirit (who also cameo in the film as themselves.) Sony are great with sound preservation and this is another track where they have done very well at removing hiss and making dialogue clear. I was happy with the track and can’t imagine it sounding better in further releases of the film.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Theatrical Trailer
- Television Spots – Two total.
- Isolated Music Track
The Bottom Line
Model Shop is one of Jacques Demy’s most uneven films. The first half pulls you in, but the second half is unconvincing. That said, as a love letter to Los Angeles from an incredible director, it works. Criterion intentionally left this film out of their Demy box set, and I have been curious about it for years. For that reason alone, I applaud Twilight Time for releasing this film on Blu-ray. I would recommend this film if you are a dedicated fan of Demy’s work. As it stands, I can’t tell how much better I will like it on a second viewing, but I am glad that I got to see how Lola was doing at the end of the Sixties.