CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER
Original title: Chronique d'un été (1961)
By Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin
Few films can claim as much influence on the course of cinema history as Chronicle of a Summer. The fascinating result of a collaboration between filmmaker-anthropologist Jean Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin, this vanguard work of what Morin termed cinéma- vérité is a brilliantly conceived and realized sociopolitical diagnosis of the early sixties in France. Simply by interviewing a group of Paris residents in the summer of 1960—beginning with the provocative and eternal question “Are you happy?” and expanding to political issues, including the ongoing Algerian War—Rouch and Morin reveal the hopes and dreams of a wide array of people, from artists to factory workers, from an Italian émigré to an African student. Chronicle of a Summer’s penetrative approach gives us a document of a time and place with extraordinary emotional depth.
"It’s one of the greatest, most audacious, most original documentaries ever made, one that poses—and, what’s more, responds to—questions of cinematic form and moral engagement that underlie the very genre, the very idea of nonfiction film."
"Rouch, an ethnographic filmmaker, and Morin, a sociologist, set out to bring together people from sectors of society that seemed, to them, to bear the weight of the political moment, and to get them to play their own roles, self-consciously, in order to understand their positions all the better."
"CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER challenged both the impersonality of cinematic history and the censorship, official and de facto, that prevailed in French politics—and linked that challenge to the film’s prime subject, individual happiness."
--Richard Brody for The New Yorker
"Cinéma vérité originated as a more complicated idea than it subsequently became. The term was coined around 1960 by filmmaker Jean Rouch, who was curious about whether it’s even possible to capture truly natural human behavior. Unlike such later documentary titans as Frederick Wiseman (High School) and the Maysles brothers (Grey Gardens), with their fly-on-the-wall aesthetic, Rouch was skeptical that people ever stop acting when they know a camera’s trained on them; at the same time, capturing unmediated reality was his most fervent desire."
“...a disarming portrait of Paris at a particular moment in time, but also a self-interrogating exploration of the documentary form itself, meeting its inherent limitations head-on in a way that few films since have even attempted.”
-- Mike d’Angelo for AV CLUB
"The participants interview people in the street, posing the question: "Are you happy?" They discuss their own lives as students, factory workers, young marrieds, immigrants, and they argue about race, class and the current wars in Algeria and the Congo. They go on vacation to the Côte d'Azur (where they interview would-be starlets)."
"It's a provocative film that launches debates about the nature of documentary that are still relevant, and it captures a Paris that is now a part of history. The directors called it "cinéma vérité", as a homage to Kino-Pravda ("film truth"), the 1920s newsreels made by the pioneer Soviet film-maker Dziga Vertov."
-- Philip French for The Guardian