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01.23.08

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Lee Miller: Through the Mirror

Facets Video; $29.95

By Michael S. Gant


Pioneer female photographer Lee Miller led one of the 20th century's most glamorous lives: she was a Vogue cover model in the 1920s, posed for Edward Steichen, learned to make her own pictures while living with Man Ray, appeared in Cocteau's The Blood of a Poet, wrote and illustrated powerful magazine articles about the liberation of the concentration camps. This 55-minute French documentary by Sylvain Roumette offers an introduction to Miller's life, based on the archival work of Miller's son, Antony Penrose (Miller was married to British surrealist Roland Penrose). Especially startling are the early nude shots that Miller's father took of her as an adolescent; her introduction to photography was charged with a creepy, repressed sexuality. Most of the film consists of stills of Miller and her work discussed by Antony, along with a long reminiscence by American magazine photographer David Scherman, who enjoyed an affair with Miller (whose relationship with Penrose was extremely open) that he's obviously never gotten over. Too bad, though, that the son's protective instincts seem to hide Miller from us; we see her mostly through the eyes of others, as if she where still the model who used to alternately fascinate and infuriate Man Ray. I don't know if any film of Miller herself actually exists, but her own voice is missing from this biography. The set comes with a booklet containing two interesting pieces about Miller, including the director's essay linking Miller to Stendhal's heroine Lamiel. (Michael S. Gant)


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