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article imageReview: Her name was ‘Lola’ and she worked in a ‘Model Shop’ Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jun 27, 2013 in Entertainment
Legendary French director Jacques Demy is the focus of a full TIFF Cinematheque retrospective, featuring his first female protagonist in ‘Lola’ and her return to the screen in ‘Model Shop.’
When many people think of French New Wave, the directors that come to mind are Alain Resnais and Jean-Luc Godard—neither of which is particularly accessible. But Jacques Demy took a different approach to the movement's general subversion of established genres, choosing in many ways instead to recreate them. He was most fond of the musicals and fairy tales of Hollywood's golden age, drawing on various elements for his films. This eventually created an established pattern of their own, mixing classically happy narratives with dark undertones of despair and loss.
In Lola, the title character (Anouk Aimée) is a cabaret singer who longs for the first love who left her pregnant with his child seven years ago. A chance meeting with Roland (Marc Michel) reawakens the love he felt for her in their teens and presents a second chance for him to win over his dream girl. Frankie (Alan Scott), a sailor on leave, also has a crush on Lola, which they both playfully entertain.
Aimée reprises her role as Lola in Demy's first American picture, Model Shop. Now a French model working in a combination peep show / boudoir photo studio, she catches the attention of George (Gary Lockwood), a young architect looking for life's meaning and love.
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TIFF Bell Lightbox
In both movies, Lola is naturally seductive even though she does not desire a romantic relationship. Aimée simply exudes an energy that draws men to her and Lola's desire to not intentionally hurt anyone's feelings leads them on. Even though there's eight years between the roles, she portrays the same woman without fault or deviation. It's clear Lola has matured, but these core elements of her personality remain.
Fate and desire play major roles in these pictures. In the sense that everything happens for a reason, each character learns or gains something from the situations displayed even though they don't always work out as they'd hoped. But the desire portrayed is not always carnal. Lola's dreams in particular tend to involve a need to recapture the past. And like any true Hollywood ending, her wishes come true.
In Lola, the music isn't exactly spontaneous but you expect more characters to burst into song beyond Lola's routines at the club. Therefore it's very much like a traditional musical without the sing along. Conversely, Model Shop is more straight-laced with all the same dramatic beats; though the Hollywood influence on this picture is just as evident in the plot development. One of the key differences between Demy's films and the American ones he admired is the French storylines are far more risqué than the typical family friendly fare across the ocean. After all, the Hays Code would never have allowed the depiction of an unwed, promiscuous mother or a woman in that type of modeling business to be shown on screen—the only exception being if she was punished in some way before the end.
Demy's camera is unobtrusive, but always present. The switch from black and white to colour gave him more control over what the viewer could see or give focus. One can only imagine how much richer Lola might have been if Demy had shot his first feature in colour as well.
Lola and Model Shop are screening as part of “Bitter/Sweet: The Joyous Cinema of Jacques Demy,” a full retrospective of restorations and rarities at TIFF Bell Lightbox from June 27 to July 20, 2013.
Director: Jacques Demy
Starring: Anouk Aimée
More about Jacques Demy, Anouk Aimee, Retrospective, TIFF Cinematheque, tiff bell lightbox
 
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