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Arts and Entertainment

'Model Shop': The 1969 Cinematic Love Letter To L.A., As Seen On 'Mad Men'

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In last night's Mad Men, the opening shot shows Don Draper in a movie theater watching Jacques Demy's 1969 movie Model Shop. Upon its release, the NY Times panned it, with critic Vincent Canby writing:

"Although Gary Lockwood and Anouk Aimée are the stars, they obviously aren't as important to Demy as Los Angeles. Lockwood, a young, disoriented architect about to go to Vietnam, calls the city 'pure poetry,' and Demy pictorially defines this in a series of loving, nightmarish explorations of that solid-state grid of boulevards, parking lots, two-story loft buildings, drugstores, supermarkets and beach houses."

Canby ended his review declaring that it "is really quite a bad movie [but] you aren't likely to forget a movie in which someone speaks of the 'Baroque geometry' of Los Angeles."

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Canby's comment is referencing the above scene, where the lead, played by Gary Lockwood, reflects on Los Angeles, telling a friend: "I was driving down Sunset and I turned down one of the roads that leads up in to the Hills, and I stopped at this place that overlooks the whole city, it was fantastic. I suddenly felt exhilarated here. I was really moved by the geometry of the place. Its conception, its Baroque geometry. It's a fabulous city. To think some people claim it's an ugly city when it's really pure poetry it just kills me. I wanted to build something right then, create something, you know what I mean?"

Of course, what was panned back then is more appreciated now—at least as a visually appealing time capsule—and last year the AV/Club recommended the film, applauding it for taking a different approach to representing L.A. on screen than most others had at the time.They wrote:

"Demy concerns himself with the geographic and architectural diversity of Los Angeles, and how the young people of the era were making it their home. Most of the late-’60s/early-’70s movies that dealt with the American counterculture tended to adopt a tourist’s point of view, treating the long hair, music, drugs, and revolutionary rhetoric as curiosities—to be feared or forgiven. Whatever the failings of Model Shop, it’s one of the few movies about L.A. in the ’60s that doesn’t feel like a re-enactment."

So if you can track down the DVD (it's not available for streaming on Netflix or Amazon Prime, but is available for purchase), it might be worth a watch, even with sound turned down. The whole movie is also below... for now:

Fun fact: Harrison Ford was originally going to be the lead.

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