Greta Schiller is best known for her 1986 documentary on early women jazz musicians, International Sweethearts of Rhythm. Ten years may have passed, but this appraisal of the women involved in the Left Bank scene shares a similar mix of marvellous archive footage and testimony. Schiller contends that the creative women living in Paris during the early decades of this century have been overlooked in favour of their more famous male contemporaries, and that Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach, Adrienne Monnier, Janet (Genet) Flanner and Djuna Barnes deserve recognition for their contributions to the modernist movement. The problem is that, with the possible exception of Stein, the achievements of the group compared to those of, say, Picasso, Hemingway or Joyce do seem relatively minor. In fact, 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 constant use of the term 'friends' grates horribly) who, by distancing themselves sexually from contemporary mores, also released themselves from other conventional expectations.
You may also like