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Case Number 17268: Small Claims Court

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Jacques Demy's Model Shop

Sony // 1969 // 97 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // September 16th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Bill Gibron enjoyed the "Spirit" of this Jacques Demy film, but little else.

The Charge

Maybe Tomorrow…Maybe Never…Maybe…

The Case

George Matthews (Gary Lockwood, 2001: A Space Odyssey) is a very unhappy man. He is locked in a loveless relationship with wannabe actress Gloria (Alexandra Hay, The Love Machine), he can't get a job as an architect, and he's penniless. Oh, and it's 1968, and he's primed to be drafted into the Vietnam War. Desperate for some money to make his car payment, he heads out into the bright LA sun. He hits up his friends, the band Spirit, for some bread. They hand him some cash and their latest LP. He then follows a fetching young woman (Anouk Aimée, A Man and a Woman) around town for a while. When he learns she works at a sleazy skin flick "photographer's club," he takes his money and spends it on some quality time with her. Turns out, she's a French ex-pat who is desperate to get back to Paris. All she needs is…money. All George wants is a little sympathy—emotion and/or sexual—and he sees Lola as his ticket toward something more permanent. Of course, Uncle Sam may have other ideas about his future.

Though its official moniker is Model Shop (or more pretentiously, Jacques Demy's Model Shop), here are a few other names that could easily fit the day in a life doldrums of this late '60s snoozefest by the filmmaker famous for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg: Jacques Demy's Driving Aimlessly Around LA; Jacques Demy's Exercise in Chain Smoking; Jacques Demy's Utter Failure in Figuring Out the American Counterculture. Clocking in at an overlong 97 minutes and packed with less action than Andy Warhol's Empire, this unfocused boy meets melancholy French girl groaner is supposed to suggest the growing disconnect between the younger generation and the world around them. Instead, it suggests Demy's disconnect from accomplished moviemaking.

Things start out decent enough—our hero having a minor scuffle with his live-in gal pal over his lack of a creative outlet. Apparently, architecture is this guy's stone cold groove, but the old boy network which demands an apprenticeship and actual proof of ability keep him from getting his structural design on. So he mopes. He mopes in a local diner. He mopes as the finance company demands $100 in back car payments. He mopes with the band Spirit. He mopes as he follows a fetching foreign babe up to a hillside manor, and then down into a dive camera club where Mr. Nudge Nudge Wink Wink can indulge in "candid photography" (say…no…MORE!). And then, just to make matters more mopey, he hooks up with the Queen of the Morose, a big haired honey named Lola who looks like she just lost her last two friends and barely speaks above a whisper.

As our lost and lonely 26 year old (yeah, Demy's pushing the boundaries of acceptable '60s hippy prototype here), Gary Lockwood looks like a lost member of the Beach Boys, not some politically aware radical. His overall demeanor is closer to sleepwalking, rarely confrontational and often inert. He is surpassed in stasis, however, by Anouk Aimée. Repeating a character that Remy first explored in 1961's Lola, she is all cotton candy coiffeur and even bigger ennui. With the standard issue foreign ingénue cliché pack in place, Lockwood's object of affection is one dull dolly, and nothing Demy gives her to do or say animates that status. As with many foreign filmmakers who come to our shores and decide to serve up some social commentary, the visuals are arresting, but the ideas are flawed. Demy's camera plays passenger most of the time, sitting in with Lockwood as he tools around town in his vintage MG. Even better, the color palette employed doesn't overplay the flower power dynamics of the era. Demy is shooting for authenticity—if not in person, at least in place. It doesn't help Model Shop be any more compelling or entertaining, however.

Sony's strategy with its "Martini Movie" label is still a mystery. These films are described as camp classics, loaded with icons and the infamous. Huh? Model Shop? Perhaps the marketing genius who came up with that approach could take a page out of Warner Bros.' simple, solid Archives Collection. Why dress up something in a description it barely even warrants? On the technical side, Model Shop looks very good indeed. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image is colorful and defect free. As with many movies made in the era, there's a flatness to the footage that gives everything a middling, made-for-television patina. Still, for something over 40 years old, the image is quite good. The sound quality is another story all together. Even in a double channel stereo remaster, this is tinny Dolby Digital Mono—and that's a shame. Spirit contributed the soundtrack, and their moody, atmospheric music deserves better. As for added content, toss in a couple of trailers. That's it.

When the random appearance of the real Randy California and his fellow jazz/hard rock/psychedelic troubadours is your anti-War protest piece highlight, you know you need a return ticket to Europe pronto. Jacques Demy may be one of the more approachable artists of the French New Wave, but his leap to our shores was clearly made without an initial look. Model Shop may be moody, but that doesn't make it good. In fact, a closer synonym would be "morose."

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 50

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• English
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1969
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
• Bad
• Classic
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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