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“Paris Was a Woman” presents a dazzling portrait of the creative community of women writers, artists, photographers and editors who flocked to Paris in the early decades of the 20th century, when Paris was the undisputed cultural capital of the world. Using groundbreaking research and newly discovered home movies, “Paris Was a Woman” uses intimate storytelling to weave interview with anecdote. The film recreates the mood and flavor of this female artistic community in the City of Light during its most magical era. Including Colette, Djuna Barnes and Gertrude Stein, poets HD and Natalie Clifford Barney, painters Romaine Brooks and Marie Laurencin.
“It's enough to make you leave your spouse and move to Paris!”
Time Out New York
“The documentary director Greta Schiller’s examination of Paris modernism gives this world of literary salons and unconventional bookshops a surprising amount of verve. Giants like Picasso, Joyce, Janet Flanner, Djuna Barnes, and Gertrude Stein come across as positively fun-loving, and Paris blooms like a rose.”
The New Yorker
Anyone smitten with the written word, and in particular with 20th-century literature, has no doubt harbored a romantic fascination with Paris between the world wars. While biographies and memoirs abound with references to the expatriate writers and artists whose synergistic response to the French capital resonates in their achievements, only the screen can yield up their living images and spoken words.
The Paris of that era and its artistic community -- particularly the passionate, creative circle of women who were drawn to the city and energized its ambiance -- are the subjects of a straightforward, intelligent and revealing documentary that opens today at the Quad Cinema.
''Paris Was a Woman,'' made by Greta Schiller, focuses on the lives and loves of such women as Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas; Sylvia Beach and her companion and fellow bookseller, Adrienne Monnier; the New Yorker correspondent Janet Flanner, the photographers Berenice Abbott and Gisele Freund, the painters Romaine Brooks and Marie Laurencin and the writer Djuna Barnes.
''For a lost generation, we sure knew where we were headed,'' says Flanner, one of the many writers and artists whose reminiscences and insights are woven into ''Paris Was a Woman.''
Here, once again, are Stein as the sole buyer of the works of Picasso; Flanner introducing her readers to Cubism; Monnier establishing the idea of the lending library in France; and Beach opening Shakespeare & Company, ruining herself by championing an ungrateful James Joyce's ''Ulysses'' and recalling her first meeting with Hemingway (he displayed his scars).
As each woman is introduced, small maps situate her home, adding to the enjoyment of those familiar with the Left Bank. Here, also, are images of such landmarks as La Coupole, La Rotonde, the Brasserie Lipp, Les Deux Magots and Le Dome. Once more, Josephine Baker performs. It comes as a shock in the midst of the film's celebration of freedom and the avant-garde to learn that the Academie Francaise barred women from studying and exhibiting art.
Time travel to golden ages doesn't exist, but documentaries like ''Paris Was a Woman'' -- with their interviews, home movies, archival film and photographs -- are the next best thing.
The New York Times
Lawrence Van Gelder
Festival & Awards
Festival International de Films de Femmes, Paris
Best Documentary (Audience Prize)
Berlin Film Festival
Best Documentary (Audience Prize)