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Lee Miller: Through the Mirror (1995)

Biographical documentary of Lee Miller (aka Elizabeth Miller, 1907-1977), her early years in USA under her father's influence, later became a model turned artist and celebrated photographer... See full summary »


Sylvain Roumette


Credited cast:
Elizabeth Lee Miller Elizabeth Lee Miller ... Self (as Lee Miller)
Antony Penrose Antony Penrose ... Self
Roland Penrose Roland Penrose ... Self
Man Ray ... Self
David Scherman David Scherman ... Self


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Biographical documentary of Lee Miller (aka Elizabeth Miller, 1907-1977), her early years in USA under her father's influence, later became a model turned artist and celebrated photographer, including her photojournalism during WWII, and her second marriage to British surrealism painter Roland Penrose postwar. Film is told through interviews with Miller's son, Antony Penrose. Written by Ruby Liang, rb_liang@hotmail.com

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Gaining insight into the life (lives) of Lee Miller, aka Lady Penrose, along with her son Antony and filmmaker Sylvain Roumette
3 May 2009 | by ruby_fffSee all my reviews

I was fortunate to have viewed the SF MOMA "The Art of Lee Miller" retrospective in 2008 and caught the last showing of the documentary film at the event. LEE MILLER: THROUGH THE MIRROR (1995) tells the life story of this extraordinary American (childhood in Poughkeepsie, NY) woman photographer, fashion model, 'surrealist' times with Man Ray in Paris, brief nuptial status in Egypt, active war correspondent in England, France and Germany, post-war mother and lady at Farley Farm House - certainly more than 55 minutes worth after 'meeting' Lee from 7 to 70.

The various phases of Lee Miller's (1907-1977) life and works are accounted and revealed by writer-director Sylvain Roumette, with the collaboration of Lee's son, Antony Penrose, Lee's close wartime journalist friend David Scherman, and Patsy I. Murray whom Lee brought in as the 'second mother' to Antony. Excerpts and words by Miller from her notebook/diary are read (by Susan Moncur, noted in the end credits). Early in the film: "I longed to be loved, just once, somewhat purely and chastely, to have youth and innocence so."

We see through Miller's photographic work, her surrealistic eye, how she matured and became wiser during WWII years, being alongside the soldiers in action and possibly traumatized by the scenes of war she so bravely photo-captured at the front-line and German camps - the effects of which may have contributed to her post-war emotional states and seemingly lack of motherhood warmth as noted by her son. The film provided personal insights and fond reminiscences of their times with Lee from Antony, Scherman and Murray. And by the end, we can tell that Antony Penrose, with the help and understanding of Scherman, is resolved with his differences towards his mother. He has embraced the rich legacy and become the keeper of the Lee Miller Archives, and written books about his mother (The Lives of Lee Miller) and of his father (Roland Penrose, The Friendly Surrealist: A Memoir), and kept up with the Farley Farm available for scheduled public tours and art/museum functions (and a related book: The Home Of The Surrealists).

There's a soothing accompanying film score by Marie-Michéle Banaletti that complemented the narrative, and the footage are well edited both photography and sound. Also noticed the English translation is by Ian Burley - my favorite French/Italian films subtitles expert ("Same Old Song" (1997); "Bread and Tulips"(2000); "Kings and Queen" (2004); "Persepolis" (2007) to name a few). Anyone who appreciates photography, art, surrealism, Man Ray, woman influences, or simply a worthwhile documentary - do check out this film available on DVD. (The "Portfolio" option gives a photo synopsis of the eight stages of Lee Miller's life. See also the "VIDEO" option: there's a brief Arte Video 'promo', a flawless editing in unblinking succession of a multitude of film titles /excerpts in just 5:44 minutes - simply fabulous eye-candy.)

Caution: There are artistic nudity photographs, harsh wartime direct camera shots included in this film. This is one for mature audience, as controversial subjects are discussed.

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Release Date:

1995 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Lee Miller: Mesa ap' ton kathrefti See more »

Filming Locations:

Egypt See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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