Nov 20, 2009
Model Shop

Gary Lockwood and Anouk Aimée star in Model Shop, a film by Jacques Demy, who is known for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and some other films. Lockwood plays an architect who is drifting along, hoping to avoid the draft. He’s behind on his car payment (an MG for which he paid $1,500, somewhere around $9,000 in current dollars), and his live-in girl friend is unhappy with him.

Vietnam is an ongoing war at the time, and Lockwood’s character is concerned with avoiding the draft, and avoiding military service. I don’t recall that it was specifically mentioned in the movie, but my memory is that those of us, including myself, who avoided or sought to avoid the draft were driven not by the thought that killing another human being was bad, but by the fear, which was to some extent fostered by the constant barrage of television news reports, that we would come home in body bags, or maimed. Now it is no consolation to those who died, or their families, but battlefield casualties are rarely 100 per cent. The Cannae type of battle in which an army of 70,000 is wiped out in a single day is very rare. Casualty rates may be high, and large numbers may be killed in a short time. Legend has it that 7,000 troops were killed in 15 minutes at Cold Harbor, something which is disputed by Gordon Rhea. However, while there is a non-zero probability of being killed or maimed, there is an equal or greater chance of not being wounded or killed. Just as there is a non-zero probability of winning $350 million in the state lottery, which drives people to waste money on lottery tickets, so the probability of maiming or death drove people to avoid service. Surprisingly though, the majority of people managed to avoid death in battle.

Now the point of all this is that hope and fear drive both the lottery ticket buyer, and the draft avoider. In both cases, however, the odds do not favor their choices. Millions of people will lose their dollar on the lottery, and thousands served without wounds.

Lockwood’s character is driven by fear. He is unable to commit to his girlfriend, unable to hold a steady job in his profession, and ultimately unable to function in any real sense. He sees and follows a woman, played by Anouk, and he discovers that she is a model who poses (semi-nude, or in lingerie) for men. She is divorced, stranded in America, and trying to raise plane fare to France.

She gets the money and leaves. Lockwood gets his induction notice. The film is a pointless exercise that is redeemed by the appearance of Miss Aimée.