I’m always fascinated when the great European directors come to work in America. Zabriskie Point, while a hands-down favorite of mine anyway, in my eyes, almost succeeds more as a relative failure because there’s something poignant about Michelangelo Antonioni‘s need to make sense of a landscape more disjointed than Rome (L’Eclisse), more baffling than North Africa (The Passenger), and possibly more empty than ‘60s London (Blow-Up). Antonioni might not have succeeded in making sense of countercultural America, but there’s something undeniably beautiful about his attempt.
Jacques Demy‘s nearly forgotten film, Model Shop, is another example of a perceived failure that somehow manages to succeed all the more so for it. Released, briefly, by Columbia Pictures in ‘69, when Demy was still basking in the international glow of his Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Model Shop stars Gary Lockwood as a Vietnam-dreading drifter who starts trailing around Los Angeles Anouk Aimee’s older French woman (well, who wouldn’t?!) Thus begins a hall-of-mirrors roundelay that, despite it’s strained dialogue and meandering plot, comes off as much a love letter to Los Angeles as it does to melancholy romance.
And while Model Shop flirts with themes of the “universal condition,” it’s also wonderful to see (as it is in Don’t Make Waves or Play It As It Lays) what the city looked like back then, less burdened as it was by cars, noise, and signage. A (typically) colorful clip from Model Shop follows below: