February 12, 2020

MODEL SHOP

Screen Shot 2021-03-28 at 12.19.07 AMSomewhere between Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood,” and Andrew Slater’s essential Laurel Canyon music scene documentary “Echo In The Canyon,” sits Nouvelle Vague reject Jacques Demy’s time-capsule of the romanticized, and sexualized, Viet Nam War era of Los Angeles, circa 1968.

Here is an anti-war romantic drama depicted in personal terms. America's pervasive ennui is palpable even in sunny California. Ideals must be tempered. No heart is pure.

“Model Shop” is a subtle anti-war film for the ages. L.A. might be sunny, but the filter of War turns the brightest colors gray.

This is a movie you can dream into, even as nightmare glimpses of American sexual repression and capitalist culture of greed and war come and go.

Model shop

Hitchhiking, pot smoking, and a handsome lead throwing around a green-and-red 1952 MG convertible like a scattered rug, contribute to Demy’s uncanny study of shifting cultural moods that the city inspired before 1969 came crashing down on hippie culture like a mousetrap. Watergate finished the job a few years later.

Model-shop

Jacques Demy exhibits poetic affection for the sprawling beachside town where an oil rig sits only a few feet away from our rudderless protagonist George Matthews’s ramshackle bungalow that he shares with a shameless would-be actress Gloria (Alexandra Hay). Gloria wants to break up; George (Gary Lockwood) isn’t surprised and doesn’t care. Gloria wants to build a family, George wants to build a career, but doesn’t want to wait the 15 years it will take to develop a reputation that will have him designing gas stations. Then a draft notice arrives for George.

Anouk Aimée in Model Shop (1969)

Nouvelle vague-inspired Leos Carax’s 1984 “Boy Meets Girl” shares “Model Shop’s” sense of existential dread for young male characters whose pending military duty colors their emotional interactions with the women they fall in love in short circumstances. Forget “meet-cute,” this is meet-horny-and-depressed, in that order. 

Dog Star Omnibus: The Scenic Route: Model Shop (1969)

The “Model shops” of the film’s title offer men an opportunity to pay to take Polaroid pictures of women in, or out, of their negligées in the privacy of a gaudy-colored room in a shady district of the Sunset Strip. Want to know more? I know you do.

Film Review: Model Shop (dir by Jacques Demy) | Through the Shattered Lens

George gets along much better with his male friends than he does with the fairer sex. In one of the film’s most inspired scenes, George visits the Laurel Canyon home of a musician pal. The two friends go into a home studio where George’s friend plays the music for a song he’s writing on a piano while his wife takes care of their baby elsewhere in the house. George silently grooves while sitting peacefully listening to his friend’s work-in-progress. However, when comes to communicating with women, George isn’t socialized nearly as well.

Model Shop 4

When George sees a lovely woman in white (Anouk Aimée as Lola), he’s inspired to follow her. Discovering that Lola works at a model shop doesn’t dissuade him. Commodification of sexuality can’t be all bad, can it? George takes the bait and takes photos of her in a frilly nothing gown. Once home with the erotic photos and a joint in his hand in bed, George’s live-in girlfriend interrupts his would-be masturbation session. George can’t get a break but on this day of all days, he really needs one. Demy makes George’s inevitable sexual release a suspense element that increases in tension as the picture goes along.

Model Shop 5

Gary Lockwood (he played Dr. Frank Poole in “2001: A Space Odyssey”) carries the same world-weary vibe of Robert Forster’s news cameraman in character Haskell Wexler’s similarly timed drama “Medium Cool” (1969). The two men look enough alike to have been brothers. Like Brad Pitt’s stunt double Cliff Booth in “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood,” Gary Lockwood worked in Hollywood as a stunt man. And similar to Leonardo Di Caprio’s Rick Dalton character, Gary Lockwood was a would-be leading man relegated to doing supporting roles on television.

Model Shop 2

When he made “Model Shop,” Jacques Demy lived in L.A. with his wife, the great French New Wave maverick Agnes Varda. Overlapping storylines from Demy’s previous movies enter into the narrative at key points. Demy allows his personal history with French filmmaking to weave into the story at hand.

Picture of Model Shop

Social commentary arrives via LA’s west side locations and streets, such as Santa Monica and Sunset Boulevards, that hold aromatic nostalgic importance for a pre-internet world when you didn’t have a cell phone crutch to rely on for information, human interaction, and social guidance. The war that rages in Viet Nam reverberates through L.A. like an invisible gas. America’s militarized corporate structure have put George in a maze full of dead-ends. At least he can appreciate the beauty and promise of Los Angeles for all of the good it will do him.   

Model Shop 3

Rated PG. 97 mins. Three Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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January 30, 2020

MARRIAGE STORY

Marriage StoryI regret every second I spent watching Noah Baumbach’s latest attempt at being Woody Allen. I should know better by now than to think Noah Baumbach will ever create a film that isn’t tiresome at best. The only thing worse than suffering through a real divorce is watching “Marriage Story.” This movie might portray itself as a romantic comedy, but there isn’t a single laugh to be had. If you take it as a romantic drama, you’ll also be disappointed by virtue of the insufferable couple on display.

Marriage-story

Adam Driver’s status as Hollywood’s current it-boy, loses more than a little credibility in a movie more appropriately entitled Divorce Story. Driver plays Baumbach’s alter ego Charlie, a Manhattan off-off Broadway director of avant-garde plays in a theatrical milieu that never existed in New York City. Ding. Baumbach’s ridiculous vision of theater people is pejorative at best. Bedwetters get more love.

Scarlett Johansson

Husband Charlie good, wife Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) bad. During their separation mediation Nicole refuses to read from her list of things she appreciates about Charlie, while he is only too willing to heap praise on his soon-to-be-ex. Nicole storms out of the session so that the therapist and Charlie can, “suck each other’s dicks.” Classy. You wonder why Johansson would sign on for such a thankless role as that of Nicole.

Marriage-story

Oh, but for their poor entitled young son Henry (Azhy Robertson). What is to become of the child of frivolous artsy New York parents. Baumbach goes full Woody Allen when he grinds the story into an East Coast vs. West Coast legal tirade about blood-sucking attorneys who milk as much money as possible from the train wreck opportunity before them. Message, Californians are phony, New Yorkers are authentic. Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Alan Alda elevate the movie as the film’s vulture lawyer characters, but to no satisfying design.

Marriagestory

The subtext, that Noah Baumbach is a thoughtful auteur whose divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh in 2010 was all her fault, is a tedious bit of dental floss that breaks in this film’s first 10 minutes. If watching people say stuff they will regret for the rest of their lives as they ugly-cry, you might get a kick later on in the movie.

Adam Driver

Slack editing delivers us to Adam Driver singing a Broadway-styled melancholy ballad for his New York theatre pals in a cozy restaurant that doesn’t exist anywhere in Manhattan. Oh what inspired feeling, oh what cheesy heart-on-sleeve emotion. Baumbach could have at least cut the movie after the song, and spared his audience 13 minutes of post-divorce child wrangling but that wouldn’t have giving him the opportunity to twist the knife a little more in Scarlett Johansson’s character. Jennifer Jason Leigh will never watch this movie, and neither should she.

Rated R. 137 mins. 

Zero Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

January 29, 2020

THE IRISHMAN

IrishmanIt will likely take a few years before audiences begin to appreciate “The Irishman” for what it is, a tremendous filmic social and character study of mafia influence that kept the wheels of industry turning in America for decades. Funny, gripping, and exquisitely crafted, “The Irishman” may well end up being considered Martin Scorsese’s greatest achievement. Cheers to that! This picture is a masterpiece, but you probably won’t think so when you watch it. Come back in five years and watch it again, you'll think differently.

Irishman

Clocking in at nearly three and a half hours, “The Irishman” is to Martin Scorsese what “Sandinista” was to The Clash, a generous gift of art meant to entertain, inspire, and inform. More is more. Watching Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci ply their acting craft mastery under Scorsese’s insightful eye is an incomparable cinematic pleasure. What sublime joy. If Joe Pesci’s performance slips in more fun than you can have with your clothes on, that’s just garlic in the marinara sauce. This movie cooks with gas, on four burners.

Irishman2

This is Cinema, characters talking and taking action with available people and tools that seal their fate. Drama muthafuka. When Scorsese foreshadows gangsters’ deaths with chyrons, it adds a documentary element that hooks you in like wearing your Sunday suit to church when you were 15.

We meet Harvey Keitel’s Angelo Bruno at a restaurant meeting. “Angelo Bruno — shot in the head sitting in his car outside his house, 1980.” At least he wore nice suits. Doom waits around every corner for characters whose perception of reality isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

Irishman-de-niro

Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” screenwriter Steve Zalian based his frequently hilarious script on Charles Brandt’s book of the same title. “The Irishman” is a neat bookend to “Gangs,” a film ruined by Harvey Weinstein’s influence, and by Cameron Diaz — but that’s another story.

Jimmy Hoffa may not remain the household name that it once was, but “The Irishman” puts a fine point on answering decades old burning questions about how Hoffa was killed, and how his body was disposed of. The film fulfills an essential public service. I'm not kidding.

Irishman3

The unbalanced friendship that develops between Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa and De Niro’s Frank Sheeran is the stuff of legend, real and imagined. You couldn’t call it a bromance, but the camaraderie on display is downright familial. To say that De Niro’s casting as an Irishman is a stretch might be an understatement, but the proof in his craft is flawless.

Irishman-movie

Wafts of Elaine May’s brilliant 1976 “Mickey and Nicky” breeze over “The Irishman” if only for the fraught connection between both films’ main characters. Linking Peter Falk to Robert De Niro, and John Cassavetes to Al Pacino is a joy you can discover if you’re enough of a movie lover to follow through. Indeed, “The Irishman” is long; thank you Martin Scorsese, cast, and crew for going over an beyond to create such a magnificent movie experience. Cheers!

Rated R. 202 mins. Five Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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