A shambling 1969 walkabout through the Venice and Hollywood sections of Los Angeles with music by proggy psychedelic band Spirit, “Model Shop” is not for everyone. Shot in gorgeous “Perfect Color” by the late Jacques Demy with dialogue by Carole Eastman (“Five Easy Pieces”), it’s a departure for the most traditional of French New Wave writer-directors who charmed the world with the great 1964 musical, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.”
If you’re not fascinated by L.A.’s history and culture, you could quickly lose patience with “Model Shop.” There’s little story and Demy’s cast is mainly comprised of amateurs and two young working actors who might as well be. Still, you may want to stick around. “Model Shop” stars Gary Lockwood (“2001: A Space Odyssey”) as an aimless young unemployed architect who may or may not be contemplating dodging both the Vietnam-era draft and his live-in girlfriend (Alexandra Hay). Eventually, however, he spots a bewitching, somewhat older, woman played by Anouk Aimée (“8 1/2,” “A Man and a Woman”), who turns out to be recreating her role from Demy’s 1961 breakthrough, “Lola.” When Lockwood finally meets up with her in a model shop – where men would once pay to take their own non-nude girlie shots (life before the Internet!) – and then in her apartment, the film’s dramatic side is salvaged thanks to a wonderfully simple and very moving performance by Aimée, who shyly and beautifully takes over the movie. Slowly, an artful mess becomes a moving romance.