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80 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2010
Paris: the Luminous Years is a beautiful way to learn about the art movements of the early 20th century. Interviews of surviving artists and writers, historians and biographers, in both English and French, added to my understanding of the time and place in which some of my favorite artists & writers lived. Conversations with Sylvia Beach are interspersed throughout, adding her opinions and memories to the mix; Miss Beach, her bookshop, Shakespeare and Co. and the city of Paris are characters in this story. Ernest Hemingway, Aaron Copeland, Picasso, and many more are quoted throughout. Their friendships, the art, politics, theatre, music, economics and, of course, the Paris of the early 20th century are thoroughly discussed from many viewpoints. I would enjoy even more period footage and conversation around this important era.
Paris: Luminous Years is lovely to watch and listen to. I am purchasing the DVD to enjoy at my leisure when I need creative encouragement or a tour of Paris during those important and "luminous years".
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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 21, 2010
Where is the artist capital of the world today where artists and free-spirits like Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Beach, Janet Flanner, and others fled the oppression of American society in post-World War I America? There is perhaps no better time to be an American in Paris than between 1905 and 1930. I saw this on late last night on PBS and I can't believe that I can purchase the DVD so quickly.

The two hour documentary has fused a combination of old Parisian footage and contemporary scenes today. As somebody who came late to understanding how Paris influenced artists, this documentary doesn't speak down to those who are not educated, enlightened, or unaware of the city's history. On the contrary, the people in this documentary speak to you as an audience. Maybe that's the difference.

Oh yes, not everything was perfect between 1905 and 1930 in Paris, France. There was the First World War and the aftermath of the gay 1920s when Parisians and the expatriates felt good to be alive. This documentary shows life before, during, and after the war. They are unaware of what's to come in 1939. Anyway, I felt that one person was missing from this DVD and that was the amazon herself, Natalie Clifford Barney, who was an American socialite and expatriate who also offered salons on par with Gertrude Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas.

I love watching Janet Flanner in anything and she was the voice of Paris for 50 years for the New Yorker. It was my interest in Janet "Genet" Flanner's writings that led me to her Paris during the renaissance period where art, culture, literature, and politics was not only discussed but argued with passion and fervor during this great time period. We may never see the likes of the great artists of the lost generation again. Paris is now too expensive for the starving artists. The situation in Paris was a perfect storm of affordability and desire to experiment life beyond the norms of convention.

The artists whether writers, dancers, painters, sculptors, or performers sought to create new art or redefine convention. They have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams because we are still talking and writing about them. God Bless those artists whereever they are now.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2010
Caught the tail end of this on PBS this weekend (another hats-off to this much maligned in modern times network): a lovely and plangent period piece. Amazing to think that with scars fresh from the horrors of the Somme and Verdun, that a society could regenerate it's elan and love of culture with such profound and lasting effect. Interesting to see too the impact of Americans just learning to come to grips with the world abroad. Indeed, this is the Paris that most current tourists - and throngs of US students abroad - long to see - alas only the echos remain.

No doubt this a nostaligic, soft focus piece - it largely ignores the vast rifts in French society, the trauma of shattered families and infrastructure left behind by the Great War, and the brooding political events that were to keep winding the spring that set the clock for WWII.

Would definitely recommend this for anyone studying 20th C literature and culture. Some fantastic filmed interviews (probably from the 50's). Also too, to anyone interested in the broad impact that African American art and music has had on world culture.

PS: This is very approachable, not snooty or high culture at all - a perfect trigger for further exploration, whether it is on the streets of Montparnasse, the pages of Hemingway, Joyce or Stein, the an iTunes download of Satie, or a Sunday stroll to your local art museum. Formidable et tres charmant!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
The cultural revolution that shook Paris 1905 to 1930 is well chronicled in this mesmerizing two-hour DVD documentary, which includes photographs, film archives, literary excerpts, and analyses. The focus in on the arts, from classical music and jazz to sculpture, from poetry to dance, from painted canvases to novels. The rise of Modernism from the post-Impressionists to Fauvism, to Cubism, to Dada and to Surrealism and their numerous beaux-arts and literary pioneers is seen as an extraordinary period of free experimentation and cross-disciplinary interactions, particularly between poets and artists. Paris was the fermenting pot and the avant-garde was strong, sharp, and manifold. Watching this documentary can induce envy. O to have lived in such a time! Of course, I and many of my generation did indeed experience such a revolution, albeit of shorter duration in this accelerating society, when the San Francisco Bay Area circa 1965 to 1980 was the hub in musical, artistic, noetic, ecological and other scientific innovations and explorations. Which brings up a minor deficiency in the documentary: the absence of any mention of the developments in science, especially physics, and its influence on the arts, when concepts of time and space and matter were the subjects of radically new thinking. Otherwise, the survey is a wonderful cultural history, from the optimism of pre-WWI and the engine of cynicism and creative criticism following that carnage. The viewer can next plunge into the many books covering this exciting period for further study. This DVD is an excellent introduction in art history and cultural studies.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This two-hour Franco-American production, written , directed and produced by Perry Miller Adato that aired on PBS in December does a fabulous job of showing how much art, music, literature and dance changed in the 25 years from 1905 to 1930 all do the confluence of creative individuals from all over the world meeting in Paris. As narrated by Concetta Tomei, the store begins in the suburban elevated area of Paris known as Montmatre. This is Picasso had his studio and he met poets and other artists like Georges Braque. By 1910 the art scene moved to Montparnasse and the art community is joined by artist Marc Chagall and playwright Jean Cocteau, We are treated to rare filmed archival interviews with both of these men as well as art dealer D.H. Kahnweiler, the art dealer who first promoted Picasso's work. In an interview when he was 95 years old, Kahnweiler describes his first visit to Picasso's studio. The film also discusses dance and the beginning of the Ballet Russe, which performed to music that they commissioned from new composers like Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Satie and Ravel. Nijinsky was their choreographer and star and the sets were designed by Matisse, Miro and Picasso!.

After World War 1, many creative Americans went to Paris, especially during prohibition, when they found themselves restricted at home. This is when the DADA (absurdist) movement started with Duchamp, Ernst and Man Ray. Soon came the surrealists (Miro; Dali) and all of this in less than 25 years - in one city!

During the last 15 minutes Adato turns his attention to jazz as it took over the city and Josephine Baker became the big import from America. And literature - with Hemmingway and James Joyce is touched on as well.

As noted above, the real gems here - even for those that know their modern French cultural history - are the archival interviews. There are more current interviews with university scholars that help though none are as engaging as the artists themselves. And actor voice-overs (all too common in PBS-type documentaries these days) provide quotes from artists for who no recordings exist.

At its two-hour length it is just right to keep the average viewers attention and, even though I knew something about most of the creative minds discussed, I found it fascinating to see how they all interacted, just like a jigsaw puzzle.

Well worth watching. The DVD has no bonus material.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Far to often the study of history is a memorization of isolated dates and events. One ends up with cold and sterile facts that do not live in one's memory.

That is not the case with this extraordinary documentary. It reels and loops through the intertwined lives of some of the most important artists; visual, literary, performing artists whose names are, if not household names, known to anyone who ever picked up a book, listened to music, watched a ballet,or visited a museum.

We are not bothered with academic definitions of Cubism, or Fauvism. We are shown now they developed, competed, and complemented one another among artists who, despite their epic stature in history, were human in every way; jealous, vain, competitive, but most of all brilliant and unimaginably talented.

By placing all the diverse artists in context, this remarkable documentary gives us a deeper understanding of their work, and how it was driven by atmosphere that existed for a brief time in Paris at the turn of the century and nowhere else on Earth.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2011
This was an excellent presentation of what happened in Paris with Artists, poets, music, people. I really appreciated the presentation of the Art; the photos of the times; even the movies of the times. Quotations of the artists; the reading of the poems; the relationships that lead to the explosion of creativity made this special time live again.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2011
I enjoy watching a lot of documentaries on PBS, but it is rare that I like one well enough to want to own it. Luminous Years was so well done, I wanted to be able to view it over and over to soak up and better understand the art, music, and culture of that era and its influence on those artists that followed, even to this day. I loved the vintage footage, which greatly enhanced the overall impact of this piece.

Another reviewer posed the question of where one could go nowadays for a similar experience. Sadly, I think the answer is that such a world no longer exists anywhere, at least for most of us.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2012
Since I retired 4 1/2 yrs. ago, I have gone through various 'phases' in reading and study. I am now in my 'artists of the world' phase.

I just finished watching this film which, by the way, is not 120 minutes but an hour and 55 minutes. Not a frame wasted on trivia. A four year university education in two hours. I have never seen an art film with more information than this one has.

Woody Allen must have watched this documentary before writing his wonderful film, 'Midnight In Paris.' All the usual suspects are here. Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Ernest Hemingway, Picasso, Braque, Chagal, Aaron Copland, Leonide Massine, Stravinsky, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce and on and on.

Lady Paris has no bad angles. She never takes a bad photograph. Footage from 100 years ago looks as if it was filmed last month. Paris has not changed that much since the French, Russian, Spanish artists lived there in the teens and 20s making their art and enscribing their names in the book of eternity.

For someone like myself, or a young student, who is an art novice, this film is an enclyclopedia of knowledge on the time and the brilliant people who inhabited this creative period.

After watching this parade of genius on film, I come away from this experience with a heavy heart. No one has made a similar documentary that covers the American artists from the 1930s to 2000. Thirty years from now when we are all gone, how will my grandchild and her children learn about Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, Keith Haring and their contemporaries? Were these men the last great artists in the US? Who is there at this moment who is their equal?

There are films on Andy Warhol that are available from many sources. A couple of short films with Jackson Pollock. Where are the films with Lee Krasner, Elaine and Bill de Kooning? Someone should interview our contemporary artists now and showcase their work on film before time passes by and we have lost the chance to immortalize them as this film has immortalized the great European artists of the 20th Century.

What a spectacular and enlightening film. I know I will be watching it again and again through the years. You cannot learn all there is to know in one sitting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2011
We watched this with great interest. Although we knew something of that era, the video provided much detailed information we had not known. Thoroughly enjoyable!
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