Paris Was A Woman


(UK/USA 1995 75 minutes)

Director: Greta Schiller
Producers: Francis Berrigan, Andrea Weiss, Greta Schiller
Screenplay: Andrea Weiss
Photography: Nurith Aviv, Fawn Yacker, Renato Tonelli, Greta Schiller
Editor: Greta Schiller
Music: Janette Mason Leading Players:
Juliette Stephenson (Narrator)

This illuminating documentary by Greta Schiller and Andrea Weiss unearths a fascinating history of a vibrant community of women who lived in Paris between the two world wars, and who nurtured and 'discovered' famous artists such as Picasso, Hemingway, and James Joyce. Whilst these male artists are now household names, Paris Was a Woman uncovers the little known but major contributions to the Modernist movement of women such as Gertrude B Stein, Alice B Tocklas and Colette, as well as publishers Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnie, and writer Djuna Barnes These women established literary salons, bookshops, small presses and magazines, all of which established Paris as the cultural capital of the world. But, this is no dry by-the-numbers documentary. Schiller and Weiss - who made the award-winning Before Stonewall - have consummately researched their subject matter, assembling an astonishing array of materials to provide insight into this circle of extraordinary women. Weaving together rare archival footage, interviews, recordings and readings, Paris was a Woman is a compelling and dramatic look at a legendary community.
-London Film Festival, 1995.

It soon becomes clear that it's the way these women led their lives as much as what they chose to do that interests Schiller. The obvious - if never overtly stated - connection is that they were all lesbians (the commentary's use of the euphemistic 'friends' grates horribly} who, by distancing themselves sexually from contemporary mores, freed themselves from other conventional expectations, allowing them to run bookshops, write, publish and generally become part of the bohemian intelligentsia. Hidden agenda apart, however, Schiller's uncovering of this overlooked subject, though not successful in revisionist terms, provides a welcome complement to our existing knowledge of the time.
-Fiona Morrow, Time Out, 12/6/96.