Chronicle of a Summer
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Few films can claim to be as influential to the course of cinema history as Chronicle of a Summer. The fascinating result of a collaboration between filmmaker-anthropologist Jean Rouch (Moi, un noir) and sociologist Edgar Morin, this vanguard work of what Morin would term cinéma verité is a brilliantly conceived and realized sociopolitical diagnosis of the early sixties in France. By simply 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.
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The film is comprised of a series of interviews, often grabbing people off the streets and asking them "if they are happy." The interviewees often discuss politics, philosophy and war. In itself, the interviews are a fascinating slice of culture. But the filmmakers then add a fascinating layer to the film by having the subjects watch the video and make commentary on it.
As you might guess, this meta-film is the stuff of film studies classes. Chronicle of a Summer is credited with heralding a cinema verite movement. Viewers with an interest in film studies and history will be most rewarded by this blu ray.
I always appreciate Criterion's editions because they allow those of us not currently in school to continue learning. The essay/booklet in particular helps with understanding the many ways that this film is "important."
The Criterion edition features:
---New 2K digital master from the 2011 Cineteca di Bologna restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
---"Un été + 50" (2011), a seventy-five-minute documentary featuring outtakes from the film, along with new interviews with codirector Edgar Morin and some of the film's participants
---Archival interviews with codirector Jean Rouch and Marceline Loridan, one of the film's participants
---New interview with anthropology professor Faye Ginsburg, the organizer of several Rouch retrospectives
---New English subtitle translation
---PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by scholar Sam Di Iorio
Including subtitle and everything I need for the presentation ~!
I really love the movie. It is not just an experiment, but a milestone of film history, not mention the cinema verito.
The film coalesces around a group of young people known to both directors,students,Renault carworkers,African students,white collar workers,artists.Some are members of a group called Radical Socialism,of which Morin is a member.2 others part of the Jean network for the independence of Algeria.There is a radical left wing brilliant student,Regis Debray,who is central to a lot of the debates. What links New Wave filmmaking and cinema verite is the erosion of the distinction between documentary and fiction. 'Chronicle' foregrounds the constructed nature of documentary `reality'. There is no objectivity,no script,but filmmakers provoking situations with groupsof people or individuals,all non-actors,through round table discussions or interviews.
There is a real emotional core in 2 females,Mary Lou,the Italian secretary at Cahier du Cinema,and Marceline,the French Jew who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau.There are ties between anticolonial sentiment and the Holocaust narrative.Marceline is going through an emotional break-up with her partner,Jean-Pierre;Mary Lou,who has laid herself confessionally bare with her loneliness in France,meets a new man (actually Jacques Rivette shot anonymously in a small scene,one of the new wave).Protagonists from different "tribes" like students and the working class,black and white people, different political generations,adults and children,are brought together. The film unfolds during the Algerian war,the situation in the Congo,with unscripted debate.
The strength of the film is in its transitions between set piece interviews,discussions and scenes of superb fluidity and movement in the outdoors,as in the working day of Angelo, like getting on a bus, Marceline's journey throught the Place de la Concorde, Mary Lou's walk down a spiral staircase,street scenes in Paris,the scenes shot in the south of France,by the sea,on the beaches,at the bullfight.The directors impose restraints of self-censorship,due to topics that would not be allowed in a film,and also due to Rouch's concern with form over content.They introduce self-reflexivity near the end,asking the participants to criticize the performances of the film.Some see fake naturalness,or others playing a role,or shameless self exposure.This shows a failure to
overcome the difficulty of communicating( Morin).But the film succeeds in capturing moments of authentic spontaneity in people's reactions.A sense of the wide world,the diversity of people shown,different forms of emotional truth, political honesty,changes going on in society.People do perform due to the camera present, but reality emerges on the screen,people play a role but their truth is harrowing(Marceline).This film was the beginning of cinema-verite,influencing the new wave and subsequent documentaries.You need to see this in tandem with "Summer+50",the documentary made 50 years after,interviewing Jean-Pierre,Regis Debray,Marceline, Nadine, Rouch and Morin,summing up their younger selves.See the out-takes and film omitted from the final version.