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Paris Was a Woman
Paris Was a Woman
Actors: Juliet Stevenson, Maureen All, Gillian Hanna, Margaret Robertson, Shari Benstock
Director: Greta Schiller
Genres: Documentary
NR     2003     1hr 15min

In the early decades of the 20th century, Paris was the undisputed artistic capital of the world. Cultural titans Gertrude Stein, Colette, Djuna Barnes, painter Marie Laurencin, publishers and booksellers Sylvia Beach and ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Juliet Stevenson, Maureen All, Gillian Hanna, Margaret Robertson, Shari Benstock
Director: Greta Schiller
Creators: Nurit Aviv, Greta Schiller, Andrea Weiss, Frances Berrigan, Jennifer Romine
Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: Biography, History
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/17/2003
Original Release Date: 11/08/1996
Theatrical Release Date: 11/08/1996
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 15min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Superb! Brings women artists and their era to life
J. Clark | metro New York City | 10/31/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Greta Schiller's award-winning documentary Paris Was A Woman (1995) explores the extraordinary women, many of whom were lesbian or bisexual, in the Left Bank's thriving cultural scene between the wars. Through Schiller's exceptional filmmaking, and Andrea Weiss's brilliant research and screenwriting, we come to know the living, complex women who so often stand only as cultural icons: novelists Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Colette, Natalie Barney, painter Marie Laurencin, photographer Gisele Freund, publishers/booksellers Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier, New Yorker journalist Janet Flanner, singer Josephine Baker, and many others. Schiller also looks at their connection to the male artists of the time, including Picasso (whom Stein discovered and promoted), Joyce (who drove Beach to bankruptcy when she published his then-illegally obscene masterpiece, Ulysses), and Hemingway (who began as Stein and Toklas's errand boy; we see - and hear - his stylistic debt to Stein).In a mere 75 minutes, with a spellbinding use of archival photos and film footage, Schiller manages to recreate the mood and flavor of this unique community of women who came to The City of Lights (and Love) from the U.S., England, and every corner of the world. This inspired, and moving, film brings to life their passion both for the arts and for a freedom in their personal lives which still resonates today.We also get to know the less well-known, but no less fascinating, women of this enclave, who gravitated to the famously different salons of Stein (witty and cerebral) and Barney (wild and sensual). The film draws on groundbreaking research, newly-discovered home movies (there is nothing like actually seeing and hearing Gertrude Stein, both in her public and private personas), and intimate storytelling that combines interviews with the people who lived then (Barney's spry housekeeper of 40 years, Berthe Cleyrerque, is unforgettable, as is Janet Flanner) with contemporary scholars (whose brief remarks, sprinkled throughout the film, are illuminating rather than pedantic). Time and again, Schiller and Weiss manage to find exactly the right photos, footage, and sound clips to reveal these women in their complexity as flesh and blood people who in some cases - such as Stein - shaped the course of modern culture.Paris Was A Woman is not only superb history, it is also inspired filmmaking. Schiller, who edited as well as directed and co-produced, uses the energy of narrative flow, balancing of viewpoints, juxtaposition of the intellectual and revealingly anecdotal, structural use of period music, and delicious humor to bring alive this world in cinematic, and human, terms.The DVD, from Zeitgeist, includes many excellent supplemental features, including the complete home movies which were excerpted in the film plus additional footage (of Stein, Toklas, Colette, Picasso, Thornton Wilder, poet Paul Valery, and more), two entire sequences cut from the film (one on Stein and Joyce, the other on Hemingway, Stein & Toklas), and dozens of archival photographs (depicting the lives of the women - one memorable split photo shows Colette dressed as a man on one half and as a woman on the other, as well as their paintings, Djuna Barnes's own hand-colored drawings from her 1928 book The Ladies Almanack - which satirized her fellow lesbian literati, and much more).I highly recommend this exceptional film!"
Excellent glimpse into the lives of REMARKABLE WOMEN!
J. Clark | 06/08/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Andrea Weiss wrote "Paris Was A Woman" which contains so much more than any video could hope to include... but the film is an excellent glimpse and overview of extraordinary American women, who relocated to the left bank of Paris in the 1920's. They stayed during the war and amidst the bombings, from their sisterhood, arose some of the best classical literature known today. See Radcliffe Hall, Djuna Woods, Natalie Clifford Barney (my favorite), Collette (35+ years before "Gigi" hit broadway), Dolly Madison, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Tolkas as well as James Joyce, Ernest Hemmingway and Pablo Picasso... and their loves, struggles and glorious triumphs. This film (and book)is moving, highly informative and amusing, too. So many heroines and talented artists and writers in one cultural place during one turbulent decade! I, absolutely, had to own the book! A definite must see and must read!"
Good subject matter, nice photography
John O. Morton | Aptos, CA United States | 09/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There is nothing like viewing a well written book "Live!" Even tho a lot of photos were taken in the 1930s, it really shows the alternative life-style that women had in Paris. Seeing Gertrude Stein and hearing her voice, along with many others was quite an experience. I personally knew Samuel Steward (a.k.a. Phil Sparrow), college prof. turned tattoo artist. His part in the video was small, but very informative. He lived in Paris for a while and was a good friend of Alice B. Toklas and Stein until they died. His book "Dear Sammy" is a joy to read. Phil kept this part of his life underground until several years before his death.I was shocked to learn that Sylvia Beach had published James Joyce's ULYSSES at her own expense, and Joyce didn't pay her one dime when he received a very large royality from a major publisher a few years later.A darn good video to watch, and does give one the urge to "Move to Paris.""
Could have been longer?
Sylviastel | 06/16/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I think it's quite fascinating to look at a time when most of us weren't even thought of. The world of Paris for women brought new challenges to reinforce their equality. Of course, most of the women here led complicated love lives mostly with each other in the literary salons of Natalie Clifford Barney and Gertrude Stein. The deleted scenes are worth noting the relationship between Ernest Hemingway who was actually Gertrude's gopher. While they were some of the smartest women including the legendary Janet Flanner, they still had remarkably difficult love lives on the side. We only see a portion of their lives. This documentary actually focuses in between wars. Don't think they had it all easy. Alice B. Toklas was left penniless by the Stein family. Alice was cared for by Catholic nuns because of her plight. Nancy Clare Cunard died alone in a Paris hospital. Djuna Barnes became a Greenwich Village recluse. Janet Flanner had three women who vyed for her love. Solita Solano was her partner in living and work. Noel was her American lover in French countryside where she spent summers and weekends in Orgeval and of course, she ended her life with the only woman who was able to care for her. That woman was NAtalia Danesi Murray and I think Janet's true love was Paris itself. It allowed you to grow and nurtured these expatriates. It was nice to see Dr. Gisele Freund. Although the clips with Shari Benstock could have looked more professional, any it's worth the price."