MODEL SHOP opens on a rough patch of Venice Beach in decay—an ambience its director maintains throughout this essential glimpse of untethered lives and anomie at the end of the sixties.
The first and last American film directed by Jacques Demy, MODEL SHOP stars Gary Lockwood and Anouk Aimée as two Los Angeles drifters. Agnès Varda made the trip over from France with Demy to scout locations for her own California story, Lions Love (… and Lies).
“Each film has its history, its beauty or not beauty, and its meaning. The meaning can change over the years for people who watch the film, because there is a lot of evolution in the sense of history, the sense of understanding. But when you speak about 35 millimeter or DCP or video, it’s unimportant. The film is what it is, but what is different are the people who made the film…
“I change. I wouldn’t do the same film today about Cuba or about the Panthers or about women. Each film has a date glued to it. And what we try is to overcome the date and make a meaning that can be more than 1962 or 1961 or whatever.” — AgnèsVarda
Varda—mother of the nouvelle vague—was born outside Brussels, made some of her most important films in California, and died this morning at her home in Paris.
Active into her late eighties, local audiences remember many of her recent trips to Los Angeles, presenting retrospectives at the American Cinematheque and LACMA, giving talks at the AFI festival, and receiving a Governor’s Award from the Academy in 2017.
Varda—who directed Cléo de 5 à 7 in Paris in 1961—and her husband JacquesDemy (1931–1990) first came to Los Angeles in 1966, Demy eventually directing Model Shop (1969) and Varda making shorts—Uncle Yanco, Black Panthers—in preparation for her first California feature, the remarkable Lions Love (… and Lies) (also 1969). Varda’s final completed work is the soon-to-be-released documentary Varda par Agnès.
From top: Agnès Varda on the set of Lions Love (… and Lies); Varda shooting her second feature Cléo de 5 à 7 in Paris in the early 1960s, photograph by Roger Viollet; Anouk Aimée (left), JacquesDemy, and Varda in Los Angeles during the shoot of Demy’s Model Shop; scene from Varda’s Black Panthers (1968), shot in Oakland; Sabine Mamou (right) and Mathieu Demy—Varda and Demy’s son—in Varda’s feature Documenteur (1981), shot in Los Angeles; Venice Beach scene from the documentary Mur Murs (1981); Varda and Jane Birkin on set, Jane B. par Agnès V. (1988), photograph by Jean Ber; Varda in Varda par Agnès (2019). Images courtesy Ciné-Tamaris.