In 1960, Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin undertook a new approach to documentary filmmaking, by posing direct questions such as “How’s your life going ? How do you manage ?” Both the filmmakers and their subjects (men and women of all ages) share in the experience of “cinema vérité” thus raising basic questions about the nature of happiness – particularly the inevitable tension between the poetic and trivial facets of our existence. –Cannes Film Festival
Jean Rouch (Paris – 31 May 1917, Niger – 18 February 2004) was a French filmmaker and anthropologist.
At their best his films are about peak experiences and are densely packed with detail. They show individuals who display a creative spirit, a wholeness and excitement which are rare in any cinema and virtually unique in ethnographic films. Moreover they are not just about “primitive peoples” but also depict his own culture and always they are concerned with dynamic situations of culture change.
He is considered to be one of the founders of the cinéma vérité in France, sharing the aesthetics of the direct cinema in the US pionered by Richard Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker and Albert and David Maysles. Rouch’s practice as a filmmaker for over sixty years in Africa, was characterized by the idea of shared anthropology. Influenced by his discovery of surrealism in his early twenties, many of his films blur the line between fiction and documentary, creating a new style of ethnofiction… read more
Paris captured in a crucial moment in 1960, not only in social-historical flux but also discovering new, meta-methods of filmmaking that have reverberated ever since. Cinema-verite at its most "cinematic", even when the directors are just casually listening and rolling film, letting the pangs and hustles of their bohemian and blue collar subjects create the film's drama.
At the dawn of cinema verite the form was already self-consciously recursive, full of doubt about its veracity, its emotional impact, the risks it ran of manipulating and exploiting its subjects, its audience, or both. That this then novel approach to putting reality on screen unmediated by script or mise-en-scene should have emerged even as France -- along with the rest of the West -- was undergoing its more or less final colonial unraveling adds an additional layer of interest to a film that could have gotten by just fine on its photogenic hams and exhibitionists alone.
Somewhat incoherent and rough as film form, it however works in many ways making one think of one's own life, the way one talks about political commitments rather than make them, the fragility or the meaningfulness of happiness, the experience of watching film, the experience of constructing/deconstructing authenticity.