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Lesbian Lore

Paris Was a Woman
One Stein Day: Gertrude Stein (right) and Alice B. Toklas walk their French poodle through the streets of France in "Paris Was a Woman."

'Paris Was a Woman' documents the remarkable expatriates who changed our ideas of modern art and literature

By Richard von Busack

A BETTER TITLE for Paris Was a Woman would be How Lesbians Changed Western Civilization. This leisurely paced, handsome documentary--narrated with the plummy voice of one of my favorite performers, Juliet Stephenson--recalls the Left Bank life in Paris between the wars. The expatriates included Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, who had an eye for Picasso and an ear for Hemingway; bookseller and publisher Sylvia Beach, who published Ulysses; Beach's friend and lover, Adrienne Monnier, who introduced the lending library into France; and journalist Janet Flanner, who famously defined Cubism as "painting not what you see is there, but what you know is there." It is a talky film, but seeing one interviewee identified as "author and tattoo artist" tells all, really, about how a handful of women trying to make a new world for themselves inadvertently transformed everyone's.

Paris Was a Woman (Unrated: 75 min.), a documentary by Greta Schiller.

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From the January 16-22, 1997 issue of Metro

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