5.09.2015

The Scenic Route: Model Shop (1969)


The Scenic Route celebrates the cars and landscape of a bygone age.

Today's selection: Los Angeles, 1969, as captured in:

Written and directed by Jacques Demy.
In Model Shop, George (Gary Lockwood) is a young man who prefers to hang around with his hippie pals (the band Spirit, who provide the soundtrack and live in communal bliss in a big house filled with sunshine and groovy vibes, and his mustachioed and muttonchop'd buddies publishing an underground newspaper) than look for work. Everywhere he goes, his friends offer him money, advice, support, even jobs. But still he wanders. He's got a degree in architecture, but does he want to just build gas stations? He's got a beautiful girlfriend, but does he want to be tied down? 

And he's got this crazy car, but does he want to make the monthly payments on it?
No, he doesn't.
The NYT described the film as "something made by a sensitive tourist." Which is exactly what it is. And that's not a bad thing - like Antonioni's Blow-Up (or his much less effective Zabriskie Point) or some of the best film noirs, a European's perspective on America, particularly the America of the 50s or 60s, can be very interesting to consider. Even when they don't seem to be making much of a profound point, as is arguably the case with Model Shop.

The plot  device is George driving around Los Angeles all day, looking for money to stave off the repossession of his car.

Which he finds, several times, but he spends it on the model shop of the title:

A "model shop" is a place where you can go and photograph one of the girls who work there in a variety of costumes, and then you keep the photos. Between this and George's aimless driving over the same repetitive landscape, it's fairly easy to see what Demy thought of American culture. Or perhaps just Western culture in general.

The model he's assigned (Anouk Aimée) is the one he's been seeing all over town. He follows her around, and they end up banging after a lot of woolgathering.
Roll credits.
And without further ado...

Demy's Lola (also with Aimée) is an undisputed classic, but Model Shop is probably a little too arsty for its own good. I'm not here, however, to really examine the film, only to celebrate the long, unhurried looks at a landscape preserved in cinema amber, of which the above is only a small and humbly presented portion.

2 comments:

  1. "Model shops"? I'd never heard of such a thing. What a strange subculture THAT must be. (Have been? Surely they don't exist anymore.)

    I'd never heard of this movie, either, but any excuse for Gary Lockwood is fine by me.

    Thanks to my personal cinematic touchstones being limited but very insistent, I assume that this movie is a bit like "Vertigo" filtered through "American Graffiti." Which sounds like a good thing to me!

    I dig that car of Lockwood's. I'd never let that sucker go!

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    Replies
    1. I thought about doing American Graffiti for this series. I still might, but I didn't want any period-movies after-the-fact, even one as pretty to look at (and car-centric) as American Graffiti. I want contemporaneous looks at the landscape. But, I still might.

      Definitely a sweet car. I forgot to write down what make/model and am having trouble finding it.

      I'd also like to write out the actual landscape followed in these posts, but no luck there. Any Los Angelinos who recognize things, please let us know.

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