Plot: George (Gary Lockwood) is an ambitious young man with some real plans, but so far he has been stalled in his attempts to pursue a better life. As idealistic as George is, he struggles to keep a positive attitude and his social life has suffered, as his failures have caused him to become more isolated over time. Now he has no job, no cash, and no real prospects, but things have just started to roll downhill. Soon he learns his draft notice has arrived, his girlfriend is moving in with another man, and his prized car is about to be repossessed. As he tries to track down a little cash, he encounters Lola (Anouk Aimee), a Parisian transplant who works as a model. The two strike up a quick friendship and bond over the common ground of financial woes, but will either be able to turn their fortunes around before it’s too late?
Entertainment Value: This is an interesting one, an American picture from French New Wave master Jacques Demy, which happens to include Anouk Aimee as Lola, the titular character from Demy’s debut feature film. Despite the director’s remarkable resume, Model Shop didn’t make much noise and critics didn’t respond well, but I think time has earned it some good will and more appreciation. Even if it ranks as one of Demy’s more minor pictures, it still has some of his signature elements and the blend of dream-like, but still believable touches help the movie stand out. That might sound like an odd mix, but it works well and never feels uneven, the formula is a tricky one to be sure, but Model Shop nails it. There’s not much emphasis on narrative, which might throw some folks off, but this kind of “slice of life” movie doesn’t need a slavish devotion to plot, so it isn’t a mark against the experience. But if you prefer narrative over characters in terms of what drives the movie, then you might not get as much out of this one as some, as that is where the film’s focus is. I also think Model Shop captures the 60s feel quite well, but has aged better than a lot of other movies from this period. So if you’re a fan of 60s cinema or Demy’s work, give this one a look.
The performances in Model Shop are interesting, but divide most audiences, as the leads are cut from the expected cloth for this kind of picture. A romantic movie like this will often have charismatic leads to help lure you into the rush of fresh love, but here it seems like the opposite is true in most scenes. Anouk Aimee is a skilled performer, but she seems a little off here, perhaps due to her lesser command of the English language and the emphasis on dialogue. She seems to stumble over a lot of her lines and her delivery is odd as well, though I think it adds some offbeat charm, while others are less receptive. Gary Lockwood is reserved and doesn’t show much personality, which makes things seem even more unusual here. I think it works for the most part, but it doesn’t have the kind of charm or presence you’d expect from a leading man in a movie about passion and romance. I’ve read that some believe it is Demy’s trouble with English that contributed as well and that could be the case, as the dialogue is just a little off and feels unnatural at times. Even so, the leads are interesting to watch, if nothing else. The cast also includes Alexandra Hay, Carol Cole, and Tom Fielding.
The Disc: The movie looks terrific in this new HD treatment from Twilight Time, giving us a clean, crisp presentation that ensures this Blu-ray makes previous home video editions obsolete. The colors are warm and natural, which allows the Los Angeles sights to come alive and contrast is consistent, so black levels are just as on point. The image yields good detail as well, so even the finest of visual touches springs to life and I think fans will greatly appreciate this improved effort. On the extras front, we have an isolated music track, some tv spots, and the film’s trailer.