Saturday, June 01, 2013


Gary Lockwood is a mid-20s guy living near a beach in Los Angeles, a year out of grad school and looking for a job as an architect; not designing run-of-the-mill stuff like diners or grocery stores, mind you, but making something really cool like a new Eiffel Tower. He's spent the last year living off of his pretty blond girlfriend (Alexandra Hay), a model hoping for a shot as an actress, but she's getting tired of his layabout mooching. And as this is the late 60s, he also has the threat of the draft hanging over him since he no longer gets a college deferment. The film follows Lockwood through one 24-hour period, beginning as he wakes up to the sound of two guys at his front door ready to repossess his garish green MG unless he can come up with $100 in back payments. They agree to give him to the end of the business day to find the money. After Hay berates him (justifiably) for his general passivity and lack of commitment—to her or to a career—Lockwood visits some old college friends in order to borrow the hundred bucks. Along the way, he becomes obsessed with a beautiful French woman (Amouk Aimée) who is stranded in California after a messy divorce; she is working as a model in a sleazy studio where men can buy a model's time, not for sex but to take sexy photographs. After he finds out from his parents in San Francisco that he must report to the draft board on Monday morning, he goes home and gets high while looking at his pics of Aimée. When night falls, Lockwood goes to the studio and hooks up with her for a one-night stand. The next morning, he calls her only to find out from her roommate that she's gone, having gotten just enough money to go back to Paris. The film ends with Lockwood repeating the phrase, "Always try" into the phone.

The description probably makes this sound like a late European New-Wave entry examining rootlessness and alienation; the director, Jacques Demy, is French, though known best for the lush romantic musical THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBROUG, and certainly the film is not strong on narrative or acting (most of the cast except Lockwood and Aimée seem to be amateurs), but still it keeps you watching, and it's not alienation as much as middle-class apathy that seems to be the main theme. It helped, for me, that the camera is almost always focused on the handsome Lockwood, who, for good measure, wears a snug t-shirt and jeans throughout—except when he's shirtless in the first scene.  His character is fleshed out a bit more than you might expect, though because he seems so aimless, it is difficult to feel much empathy for him. Aimée's character is rather far-fetched; it seems unlikely given her looks and manner that she'd have to humble herself in a skid-row skin parlor to make ends meet. The rock group Spirit appear as themselves, an up-and-coming band with a debut album just out, but as actors, they're terrible—even a line like "Hey, man, how ya doing?" sounds stiff. I suppose the "Always try" mantra at the end is supposed to be positive, but Lockwood doesn't sound like he believes it, and the last moments reek of sweaty desperation. An interesting movie. And again, Gary Lockwood in tight clothes. [DVD]

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