Sometimes, it takes an outsider. In Model Shop (1969), Jacques Demy discovers beauty in LA’s often derided urban sprawl. And for lovers of 60s style, it’s a non-stop fashion parade.
Demy [The Umrellas of Cherbourg (1964)] begins in the industrial outskirts of the city. Perhaps symbolically, the twenty-something couple we’re introduced to live in a cottage next to an oil pump.
Alexandra Hay is Gloria, a willowy part-time model who lives with her unemployed architect boyfriend George (Gary Lockwood). Gloria is the perfect California girl. The problem is, she whines and nags George about commitment and finding suitable employment, two things he seems allergic to. Hays created a sensation playing Jean Harlow in the Los Angeles run of Michael McClure’s play The Beard, with Dennis Hopper as Billy the Kid. According to Tom Lisanti’s 60’s Cinema, “she was arrested fourteen times for obscene language and doing stage nudity before landing a long-term contract with Columbia Pictures.”
Best known for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Lockwood, at 32, is a bit old for the part of 26-year-old idealist George (Harrison Ford was Demy’s first choice). He’s boyish enough, complete with a Glen Cambell hairdo, but the lines around his eyes are evident and the cheeks too full. A former U.C.L.A. athlete, Lockwood is otherwise well suited to play George as an All-American boy who made a wrong turn at the frat house. He’s grown some sideburns and uses the counterculture vernacular. “I’m kind of in the same bag myself,” he replies when a friend complains of a lack of funds. Gloria tells George: “You reject society. You refuse to commit yourself to anything or anybody, don’t you? Not even to me.” What he doesn’t reject is the allowance from his wealthy parents. Unfortunately, they turn down his request for a raise.
George talks the repo men out of towing his car, a green MG that Gloria reminds him he couldn’t afford. He sets off in search of the $100 he needs to keep the creditors off his back.
George’s sports car is impractical and conspicuous in a world of Mustangs. It looks clunky next to the smooth lines of what GM and Ford were putting out at the time.