Place III

film 1 of 5

Model Shop

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 16, 2015

Cool combination: the counter culture as seen by an existentialist, or at least a rapt romantic in existential mode. Most of the subjective or trendoid productions of the 1960s look dumb by now, and even then, probably. By speaking quietly and calmly Demy gives us a more plausible sense of the time. The boy/girl romance—Anouk Aimée’s Lola character, and the straining bid to make this part of Demy’s gallic auto-mythology—is less interesting. It kind of feels like Paris, Texas, at the point when Nastassja Kinski starts talking and talking and won’t stop. This material is clearly intelligent and artful in a sophisticated European way. It’s also indulgent and kind of annoying.

That falls away, since Demy is also up to a third, best thing. Model Shop is finally an LA city symphony. The ensemble, outsiders and locals alike, know and love their location. The images gleam. What camera operation! There are minutes and minutes on end of Lockwood driving and looking. They had to have been thinking Rossellini’s Voyage to Italy, and yet there’s nothing at all derivative here. That’s because, like neo-realism and a bunch of other profound film innovations, you can make infinities of film out of just driving and looking. Since this is the case, Demy’s film ends up having a successful fictional strand, a less successful fictional strand, and a really tremendous documentary component. It’s John Grierson’s creative treatment of actuality, mind you, which is to say that it’s even better when the driving is set to Bach and Schumann. (All this reminds me of Randy Newman’s combinations of plain sarcasm and real beauty—the blend makes for something ambiguous, anti-sentimental and bitter-very-sweet.) The ending is understated, melancholy, moving.