A few years after Jacques Demy scored an international hit with "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg"--you know, that goofy French movie in which all the dialogue is sung?--somebody had the idea of bringing the Euro auteur across the Atlantic so he could unleash his quirky Day-Glo aesthetic on the American public. Alas, "Model Shop" turns out to be a rather tedious affair, hardly the charming fantasy Demy seems to have had in mind.There's not much plot here: an unemployed architect (Gary Lockwood) falls for a sexy but distant French woman, Lola (Demy regular Anouk Aimée), who works at a "model shop" where lonely males go to take pictures of sexy young ladies. (Why does that sound like the storyline to a '70s porn flick?) As he is trapped in a doomed relationship with a ditzy actress (Alexandra Hay--a cute, vibrant blonde), our nearly destitute hero sacrifices what little money he has in a futile effort to win over Lola.
Judging from all the leisurely--much too leisurely--shots of sunny L.A. streets, Demy seems to have enjoyed his stay in the City of Angels. It's too bad he couldn't have come up with more material; this movie plays like a short film blown up to feature length. The plot lacks tension. Lockwood is a bland presence on screen, and it's difficult to care much for this guy. After a while, you begin to think what he really needs is not True Love but a firm slap across the face.
The proceedings become instantly laughable whenever Demy, who is always best when he keeps things light-handed, tries to get Serious. Here is our protagonist (having been drafted into the Army) musing about mortality: "I guess I never really thought about it before. Death, you know: it's insane!" The climatic encounter between Aimée and Lockwood, plainly calculated to have viewers reaching for their hankerchiefs, is pure corn and comes off like a bad soap opera.In the end, all you have are some nice-looking sets that look like a gang of five-year-olds ran wild with crayons. It's not hard to see why, despite Demy's continuing popularity, this movie has been almost forgotten.