There are two ways to examine history. One is to delve deeply into minute details artificially isolated from context. Another is to examine many topics at once as they create, delicately, intricately, beautifully, a context that gives them all meaning. This documentary, fortunately, gloriously, is the latter.
Did you know that Picasso did set design for the Ballets Russes, or that his closest friends were poets, not painters? Did you know that James Joyce's Ulysses might never have been published if not for an avant-garde bookstore owner named Sylvia Beach? Have you ever considered how the acerbic comments of Gertrude Stein shaped the sensibilities of a generation of canonical writers like Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound, most of them American expatriates, or that Aaron Copeland had to go to Paris to develop the vocabulary that would eventually define his uniquely American sound.or how an insanely gifted cadre of artists, poets, musicians, dancers, and impresarios redefined art, all forms of art, as we now know it? These are only a few of the threads woven beautifully, frankly, intelligently together by this startlingly enlightening work.
It is almost impossible to give full consideration to the diversity of this documentary on a single viewing. Each viewing provides new insights, synchronicities and points of departure for further research. Anyone wishing to develop a full appreciation and understanding of the art, by which, again, is meant all forms of art, of the twentieth century should consider this required reading.
As one commentator of the film observed, we absorb places into our lives, into our identities. We dream about places. They become part of our unconscious. Paris was, in the period addressed by this documentary the place an artist, any kind of artist, had to be to drink in the intoxicating intellectual, creative and spiritual libation that was served in no other place on Earth. Years later, in the latter part of the twentieth century, New York would become a similar place for nurturing the art of the world, but here, in Paris, in lively and intimate vignettes, is the basis of everything art was to become and, to some extent, remains to this day.
I preordered the DVD of this documentary the moment I saw it. It arrived on a day when I was sick in bed, and I cannot say whether it was various medications or this movie that made me feel better that day. All I can say is this. Get it. Apply as needed. You will feel better.
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