Paris The Luminous Years: Towards The Making Of The Modern

Paris The Luminous Years: Towards The Making Of The Modern
premiered December 2010.

Paris the Luminous Years
The story of Paris from an unprecedented point of view, as active protagonist, catalyst and midwife to modernity.

About the Program

In the early decades of the twentieth century, a storm of modernism swept through the art worlds of the West, uprooting centuries of tradition in the visual arts, music, literature, dance, theater and beyond. The epicenter of this storm was Paris, France.

Paris The Luminous Years, explores this unique moment in Paris from 1905 to 1930, decisive years for our contemporary culture, when an international group including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Igor Stravinsky, Ernest Hemingway, Jean Cocteau, Gertrude Stein, Vaslav Nijinsky and Aaron Copland, among numerous others, revolutionized the direction of the modern arts.

Paris The Luminous Years is the first television program to look at the city from a new and fresh perspective — the importance of a particular place in artistic creation. The film tells the story of Paris as magnet; the catalyst and the transforming force that attracted the finest talents of the era, molding the lives and work of two remarkable generations.

Through intriguing back stories of crucial relationships and of major turning points in the trajectory of the modern arts, Paris The Luminous Years reveals why breakthroughs like Picasso's radical "Les Desmoiselles D'Avignon" that initiated Cubism and Stravinsky's violent "The Rite of Spring" that pioneered modern music, could only happen in the international, fervent atmosphere ofx early twentieth century Paris.

Why Paris? What did these young rebels find in Paris that they didn't find elsewhere? The answers come from the participants themselves, on camera in rare archival footage: Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, Jean Cocteau, Igor Stravinsky, Janet Flanner, Aaron Copland, Sylvia Beach, Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara, D.H Kahnweiler. The answers also come from artists in their own words drawn from primary sources: letters, memoirs, recollections of witnesses documented by rich visual imagery including live contemporary footage of Paris filmed on locations relevant to the story.

For avant-garde painters and sculptors, Paris provided crucial access to intrepid art dealers who were ready to show, buy and sell their work. For young American authors and poets, their radically innovative literature — often rejected by major American publishers — was embraced and published in Paris by equally young, American publishers with small, independent presses. For composers, choreographers and dancers, it was the visionary impresario Serge Diaghilev, director of the Ballets Russes, whose famous phrase "Astonish me" could lead to a commission of a score or a new ballet.

Paris The Luminous Years features exceptional archival footage, photographs and artworks, including 447 images from 113 international sources. The city on the Seine was a major catalyst for artists in nearly every artistic discipline. For example, in the visual arts the film vividly contrasts works by Picasso, Soutine and Lipchitz before their arrival in Paris with their later creations. Interviews with writers and scholars provide deeper analysis on how modern artists were challenged and transformed by the "city of light."


A production of THIRTEEN for WNET.ORG, The Eloquent Image LLC, INA, and ARTE France in association with YLE Teema, Paris The Luminous Years is written, directed and produced by Perry Miller Adato. Margaret Smilow is executive producer; Junko Tsunashima and Kristin Lovejoy are producers; Kris Liem is editor.

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© 2010 THIRTEEN for WNET.ORG and The Eloquent Image LLC. All Rights Reserved. Text by Perry Miller Adato. Photos courtesy of Rue des Archives/Tal and Edward Gooch/Getty Images.

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The Luminous Years  (DVD)

From 1905 to 1930, Paris was the magnetic center for radical innovation and experimentation.

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