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The Model Shop: Even better than Antonioni's L'avventura?,
This review is from: Model Shop (DVD)
Sony marketing calls its new DVD presentation of The Model Shop a "martini movie" -- the implication being that the "movie" ought to be laughed off as a camp curiosity. Don't believe it. Jacques Demy's 1969 The Model Shop is important and influential. Its arrival to DVD is cause for celebration.
With forty years' hindsight, we can see The Model Shop's enormous debt to Antonioni's L'avventura, that great 1960 landmark: Both films take place in desert locales. Both focus on disillusioned architects grasping for meaning and direction. Both architects profess admiration for the emotional fullness of Baroque architecture. Both men betray their girlfriends -- and both in the arms of tawdry exhibitionists. The list goes on and on.
But where L'avventura makes the most of its excellent black and white photography, The Model Shop goes one better by deploying vivid color to convey mood and thought and feeling -- and does so with the same canny impact as in the best color art photography (the esteemed William Eggleston comes to mind). When in the final frames, the film's action renounces color and cuts to the blackest black, the dramatic edit conveys unsettling truths about the lead character's dilemma. In this one bold move, The Model Shop distills and outperforms Antonioni (and seems to have provided the template for the "Paint it Black" ending to Stanley Kubrick's 1987 Full Metal Jacket.) This and its lead character's emotional predicament at film's end also appear to have influenced the memorable ending to Quentin Tarantino`s 1997 Jackie Brown.
Throughout The Model Shop's deceptively simple story are poetic clues to its own self-knowing intentions (all of those oil wells, want ads, and so on are all well-placed and all there for good reason). In our own time of digital histrionics, The Model Shop's quiet engagement with human feeling and human imperfection comes across as fresh and alive. Its photorealist-worthy portrayal of West LA buildings, streets, and parking lots makes the Southern California cityscape as integral to the film's strength as the Mediterranean island views in L'avventura. And if the sheer unspeakable beauty of Los Angeles has ever been put on film with more loving attention than in The Model Shop, would someone please hurry up and tell me where?
The Model Shop is unforgettable cinema. A sincere thank you to Sony for making it available at last.
Now. About that "martini" marketing...