Project Description


(2010) (RT 2:00) (Written, Produced and Directed by Perry Miller Adato)
A storm of modernism swept through the art worlds of the West in the early decades of the Twentieth century uprooting centuries of tradition in the visual arts, music, literature, dance, theater, and beyond.  The epicenter of this storm was Paris, France. For an incandescent moment from 1905 to 1930, Paris was the magnetic center for radical innovation and experiment, the Mecca for creative talents from Michigan to Moscow, from Brooklyn to Barcelona, who would change the course of the modern arts throughout the Western world. On-camera, dramatic and historic moments are recalled by active participants in these legendary events including Marc Chagall, Igor Stravinsky, Jean Cocteau, Aaron Copland, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miro, Sylvia Beach and Janet Flanner.

Why Paris? Paris the Luminous Years tells the story from an unprecedented point of view—Paris, not as the familiar, glamorous backdrop for the revolutions that exploded there, but as active protagonist, catalyst, and midwife to modernity. The film spotlights now-famous figures in the art world’s first international avant-garde, tracing who came to Paris and why, whom they met, what they made there, and how being in Paris transformed them and their work.  Through intriguing back stories of crucial relationships and of major turning points in the trajectory of the modern arts, Paris The Luminous Years examines why breakthroughs like Picasso’s radical Les Desmoiselles D’Avignon and Stravinsky’s violent The Rite of Spring could only have happened in the international, fervent atmosphere of early Twentieth century Paris.

The vibrant artistic milieu of Paris before WW1 and during the 1920’s is skillfully resurrected in archival footage and rare stills of Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Serge Diaghilev, Vaslav Nijiinsky, Daniel Kahnweiler, Guillaume Apollinaire, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos. These and other key participants are brought to life through their quotes delivered voice-over by actors.  Letters, memoirs, recollections of witnesses, are documented by rich visual imagery, including live contemporary footage of Paris filmed on locations relevant to the story. Interviews with biographers and distinguished scholars provide deeper analysis on how modern artists were challenged and transformed by the “city of light.”  These include: Serge Fauchereau, curator and author; Lynn Garafola, dance historian and critic; Kenneth Silver, art historian and curator; Romy Golan, art historian; Tyler Stovall, historian; Gerald Kennedy, literary historian; Donald Faulkner, literary historian; Noel Riley Fitch, biographer and cultural historian and Albert Sonnenfeld historian of French Literature.

“Paris was where the 20 Century was,” stated Gertrude Stein. “We all came to Paris.  It was where we had to be.”


“While countless books have been written and films made about this era, Miller Adato connects the dots succinctly and with thrilling insight…Again and again, implicitly and more directly, Miller Adato, an Emmy Winner for her 1968 film on Dylan Thomas and the Director’s Guild of America Award in 1977 for Georgia O’Keeffe, makes the point that Paris was more than a mere meeting point for these men and women: it was a singular catalyst for the explosion of creative exploration that became modern literature, dance, music and visual art.By showing us work both before and after they arrived in Paris, Miller Adato enables us to see not only how their new milieu changed the art of Picasso and Lithuanian-born Chaim Soutine and Jacques Lipschitz but what they brought with them when they left their old lives behind.
“It is here”, an elderly Stravinsky says in a grainy black and white clip, as he revisits the room where he composed “Rite of Spring.” And in that moment, we feel both a rush of reverential awe and an awareness that, to paraphrase the title of Flanner’s collected New Yorker columns, Paris was only yesterday.”
–David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle

“The two-hour film takes us to a critical time and place in cultural history where artists of all stripes from many countries came together to explode earlier traditions in painting, sculpture, poetry fiction music and dance…Who better than one of public television’s great cultural historians to bring this exciting and important era to life?”

Adato’s archival assemblage takes us on a tour of the city from 1905 to 1930 touching on seminal works ranging from Picasso’s Desmoiselles d’Avignon to Joyce’s Ulysses to the Stravinsky/ Nijinsky ballet The Rite of Spring…The line-up is impressive…it’s riveting to listen to such giants as Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp discuss the times and their work.

A scintillating documentary … The Luminous Years is luminous itself, a fascinating look that will leave almost everyone who watches it with a better understanding and appreciation of modern art than they had before they started.”
–Jonathan Storm, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Amid the cafes and salons of early 20th Century Paris, the future of the art world is born anew in this remarkable journey of inspiration and friendships.”
–Ken Burns/Director and Producer

“…Perry Miller Adato recreates the birth of modern art in its many forms in this visually stunning examination of a city and a cultural force.”
–Sharon Percy Rockefeller/ President & CEO, WETA TV/FM, Washington, DC

“Paris the Luminous Years is thorough, instructive and for the most part, beautifully illustrated, particularly with slides of Fauvist paintings, set designs from the Ballets Russes and clips of old black-and-white interviews with the likes of Chagall, Jean Cocteau and Janet Flanner…
“To the film’s credit, it doesn’t pay attention just to famous artists; it includes intermediaries like the art dealer Daniel- Henri Kahnweiler, a German émigré who championed Picasso and the Cubists…

And its focus is not narrowly on colorful American expats who hung out with Hemingway and Sylvia Beach at her legendary bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, though they get their due toward the end.

Most of the material centers on European and Russian artists, Duchamp, Breton, Picasso, Miro, Chagall and Diaghilev to name but a few. The film is particularly good at exploring how World War 1 split émigré artists who mobilized to fight for France, like Apollinaire, and those who chose not to fight, including Picasso.

There are some wonderful old clips and newsreels, and even a quite startling 1980 clip of Rudolph Nureyev making love to a scarf in his famous recreation of Nijinsky’s “Afternoon of a Faun.”
–Alessandra Stanley, New York Times



Director: Perry Miller Adato
Producer: Perry Miller Adato
Writer: Perry Miller AdatoExecutive Producer: Margaret Smilow
Narrator: Concetta Tomei
Director of Photography: Martial Barrault (Paris), Wolfgang Held (New York)
Editor: Kris Liem
Music: Joel Goodman
Producers: Junko Tsunashima, Kristin Lovejoy
Associate Producer: Sylvia Cahill
Serge Fauchereau, Art Historian, Curator, Author Les avant-gardes 1905-1930
Romy Golan, Art Historian, City Univ. of New York
Albert Sonnenfeld, Literary Historian, Professor Emeritus, USC
Noel Riley Fitch, Literary Historian, Author Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation
Lynn Garafola, Dance Historian, Critic, Barnard College
Jane Fulcher, Musicologist, University of Michigan
Kenneth E. Silver, Art Historian, Curator, New York University
Donald Faulkner, Literary Historian New York Writers Institute
Gerald Kennedy, Literary Historian, Louisiana State University
Brenda Wineapple, Literary Historian The Graduate Center, CUNY
Tyler Stovall, Historian, Univ. of California, Berkeley

Leon Botstein
Serge Fauchereau
Noel Riley Fitch
Jane Fulcher
Lynn Garafola
J. Gerald Kennedy
John Merriman
Linda Nochlin
Kenneth E. Silver
Albert Sonnenfeld
Tyler Stovall

Archival Research:
Sylvia Cahill, Kristin Lovejoy (New York) Anne Connan, Annick Fosse Kleindienst (Paris)

Sound: Francisco Camino, Gautum K. Choudhury
Line Producer (Paris): Valerie-Anne Coston-Solignat
Production Coordinator (Paris): Barbara Canale
Assistant to the Producer: Jennie V. Engstrom
Gaffers: J.D. Moll, Jean-Pierre Vial

Assistant Camera: Kelvin De La Cruz
Production Assistants: Josh Golde, Julia Thompson, Andrew Zapanta
Interns: Eva Lipman, Andrew Reyes, Joe Skinner

Voice-over Actors
Steve Aldrige
Daniel Breaker
Chris Henry Coffey
Ronnie Farer
Nicole Fonarow
Cham Giobbi
Ron Mark McClary
Nick Wyman

Post Production
HD On-line Editor: Kerry Soloway
Re-Recording Mixer: Ed Campbell
Sound Editor: Deborah Wallach
Title Design: B.T. Whitehill
After Effects: Tim D’Amico
Assistant Editor: Lucia Giovanniello

Special Thanks
Tamara Robinson
Ruth Glanz
Neil M. Adato
Cultural Services of the French Embassy
Jan Gura

Archival Courtesy:
Jean-Marie Drot’s Les Heures Chaudes de Montparnasse, 1960’s Paris interviews
The Aaron Copland Fund for Music
The Archipenko Foundation
Archives Artistiques Sylvie Buisson, Paris
Archives Claude Picasso
Archives de la Fondation Internationale Nadia et Lili Boulanger

Art Resource, NY
Adoc-photos / Art Resource, NY
Alinari / Art Resource, NY
Banque d’Images, ADAGP / Art Resource, NY
Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz / Art Resource, NY
Bridgeman-Giraudon / Art Resource, NY
Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, NY
CNAC/MNAM/Dist. Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY
Digital Image (c) The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY
Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY
Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY
Neue Galerie New York / Art Resource, NY
Nimatallah / Art Resource, NY
Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY
Scala / Art Resource, NY
Scala/White Images / Art Resource, NY
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC / Art Resource, NY
Snark / Art Resource, NY
The New York Public Library / Art Resource, NY
The Philadelphia Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY

Artists Rights Society
All works by Alexander Calder © 2010 Calder Foundation, New York
All works by Henri Matisse © 2010 Succession H. Matisse
ADAGP, Paris
ADAGP, Paris / Succession Marcel Duchamp
SIAE, Rome
VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F.
C. Herscovici, London
Estate of Alexander Archipenko
Estate of Pablo Picasso
Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris
Salvador Dali, Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation
Successió Miró ADAGP, Paris

Atelier des Archives
Collection Jazz on films
Collection British Movietone
Paris Express Réalisation Pierre Prévert, Jacques Prévert, Marcel Duhamel © Argos Films
“Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas” by Gertrude Stein
Baltimore Museum of Art: Cone Collection
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Thérèse Bonney
BBC Motion Gallery
Archives Charmet
Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, France
Bibliotheque Litteraire Jacques Doucet, Paris, France
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France
Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan
Cameraphoto Arte Venezia
Gabriel Figueroa
Galerie Daniel Malingue, Paris, France
Galleria Pictogramma, Rome, Italy
Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, The Netherlands
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
Jorge Contreras Chacel
Ken Welsh
Lefevre Fine Art Ltd., London
Library of Congress, Washington , D.C., USA
Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France
Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
Musee National Fernand Leger, Biot, France
Museo dell’Accademia Etrusco, Cortona, Italy
Museo Dolores Olmedo Patino, Mexico City, Mexico
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA
Nationalgalerie, SMPK, Berlin, Germany
Peter Willi
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy
Roger Viollet, Paris
Rupf Foundation, Bern, Switzerland
State Russian Museum, St Petersburg, Russia
The Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA

Centre Pompidou – MnamCci – Bibliothèque Kandinsky
Photographe: Guy Carrard
Collection Kharbine-Tapabor
Collection Lobster Film
Illustration de Paul Colin/ADAGP
Département des Hauts-de-Seine
Écoles d’Art Americaines de Fontainebleau
Estate of George Antheil
© Estate of Jacques Lipchitz, courtesy Marlborough Gallery, New York
André Fage – Président des amis du Musée de la Photographie à Bièvres
Films Régent Archives Jacques Haïk
Francis M. Naumann Fine Art
Frank Driggs
Gaumont-Pathé Achives
Getty Images
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University
HBO Archives
Historic Films Archive, LLC
© Horst P. Horst / Art + Commerce
Jazz Band in a Parisian Cabaret by Langston Hughes, by permission of Harold Ober Associates
ITN Source
John E. Allen Inc.
The Joffrey Ballet
Ernest Hemingway Collection/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
Kunsthaus Zürich
© L & M SERVICES B.V. The Hague 20100314 & 20100107
Lebrecht Music & Arts Photo Library
Librairie la fontaine aux canards
Library of Congress
Lloyd and Tillie Arnold Fund
MacDonald & Associates
The Malcolm Cowley Archives, The Newberry Library, Chicago
© Man Ray Trust/Adagp/Telimage – 2010
Ballet “Parade”, chorégraphie de Leonide MASSINE
McNay Art Museum
Michael Chertok Jazz Film Archives
© Musée Albert Kahn
Département des Huts-de-Seine
Musee d’Histoire Contemporaine-BDIC
The New York Public Library
New York Tribune
The New Yorker/Condé Nast Publications
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Photo Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris/Jean Tholance
Tous droits réservés
© Roger-Viollet
Dominique Rabourdin
Rambert Dance Company
Excerpts from Hans Richter’s “Ghosts Before Breakfast” (1927-1928
Royal Museum for Central Africa
RTÉ Libraries and Archives
Rudolf Nureyev Foundation
Rue des Archives
Paul Sacher Foundation, Igor Stravinsky Collection
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The Sheldon Art Galleries
Streamline Films, Inc.
Sylvia Beach Papers. Manuscripts Division. Princeton University Library
The Poetry Collection, University at Buffalo, SUNY
University of Pennsylvania, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
John Dos Passos Collection, University of Virginia Library
Collection of André Van Breusegem
Carl Van Vechten Trust
V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum

Executives in Charge
Stephen Segaller
Andy Halper

Music Supervision: Rosie Fishel
Music Services: John Adams, Emily Lee

Project Management: Jane Buckwalter

Counsels, Program Business & Legal Affairs:
Odell Nails III
Robert Cooper Young

For Institut national de l’audiovisuel
Production and Publishing Management: Christophe Barreyre
Head of production: Xavier Marliangeas
Executive Producer: Sylvie Blum
Production Assistant: Vincent Encontre

For ARTE France
Head of Discovery and Knowledge Unit: Helene Coldefy
Commissioning Editor: Nathalie Verdier

Commissioning Editor: Ritva Leino
Head of Planning: Niina Tynkkynen

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