Anouk Aimée reprises her greatest role, as Cécile, professionally, Lola, in Jacques Demy’s English-language Model Shop. We catch up with her nine years after Lola in a seedy, forlorn part of Los Angeles, not in Nantes, where more of her life seemed to lie ahead. Now her marriage to Michel, once part of her future, has ended in divorce and she is attempting to make enough money to go home and be reunited with her teenaged boy, whom she hasn’t seen in two years. Once a dancer, someone in motion, now Lola poses for private clients in a model shop. “[T]he essence of her presence,” I wrote about Lola in her former incarnation, “is that [she] seems perpetually poised to take her leave.” A half-packed suitcase in her L.A. apartment, once serendipity brings her the needed funds, renews this sense of her.
Is it the brilliance of Lola that has helped blind people to how good a film the later one is? Or is it the fact that an American has become the protagonist?—George Matthews, the 26-year-old aspiring architect who, drafted into a tour of duty in Vietnam, discovers to his surprise he is afraid of death. Superb cinema: George’s two journeys down the long, dark, narrow, uterine corridor leading to Lola’s room at the model shop.
Ironically, in Nantes Lola had entertained American GIs at a private club, and one of these, Frankie, has been killed in Vietnam. Lola’s learning this upon arrival cast a pall on her American experience. By sharing this with George, Lola deepens his mortal fear; but her residual hopefulness rouses him from lethargy and inspires in him a love for life that he touchingly confuses with love for this woman he doesn’t really know.
Ah, but we do.
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