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JULY 19

The mystique of male expatriate artists and writers has perpetuated an image of Paris as a female entity—mistress, muse, coquette. Although the metaphor is somewhat apt, it would perhaps be more accurate to say that women were Paris. As Greta Schiller’s documentary Paris Was a Woman points out, many of the female members of the Left Bank artistic scene arrived in the city in the early 1900s, long before most of its male stars, and departed much later, at the time of the Nazi occupation of France—if they left at all. Their friendships, love affairs, rivalries, and collaborations formed the foundation of social and artistic life during the celebrated Moveable Feast era. The American and European women Schiller profiles made important (but often overlooked) contributions as artists, writers, poets, and performers, and also acted as financial, moral, and administrative supporters of the arts. In addition to the most famous figures of the time, such as Gertrude Stein (pictured), Colette, and Djuna Barnes, the film focuses on less legendary but undeniably influential women like Janet Flanner, whose “Letter From Paris” column in the New Yorker chronicled the people and events of the period with a prescience borne out by history; Sylvia Beach, the proprietess of the English-language Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company, who risked imprisonment and went bankrupt by publishing James Joyce’s Ulysses; and Natalie Clifford Barney, “the leading lesbian of her time,” who threw women-only pagan rituals in her garden in the style of those held by her role model, Sappho. Paris Was a Woman screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Ave. NW. $5. (202) 783-7370. (Dawn L. Hannaham)