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Critics reviews
Chronicle of a Summer
Edgar Morin, Jean Rouch France, 1961
It’s an invigorating watch for the way it mixes philosophical-political probings (about representation, the Holocaust, the Algerian War, meaning itself) with a freewheeling style less landlocked than even its New Wave competition, thanks in part to Rouch’s handheld, sound-equipped prototype camera.
September 17, 2014
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To the degree that Rouch and Morin undermined their authority as filmmakers, Chronicle became a model for the collective films of ‘68 and of the American New Left. If Rouch and Morin’s experiment towers above those films, and also those of America’s Direct Cinema, it is because of the moral commitment of the filmmakers to their roles as group leaders—more empathetic, challenging, and intelligent than the fathers of our wildest, utopian dreams.
September 04, 2013
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The result is 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.
March 13, 2013
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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.
February 28, 2013
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Chronicle of a Summer is a pivotal film in French cinema, and like others of its kind—The Rules of the Game, Breathless, Beau travail—its greatness lies in its attraction to the unknown. By using new technology to frame developing events, Rouch and Morin capture two profound transformations.
February 25, 2013
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That we feel the camera’s presence—and that of those who manipulate it—so resolutely gives the film an intermittently academic tone; as there’s nothing being obfuscated to provoke or delight us as a narrative would, the movie becomes an exercise, a study. There are also, however, displays of such affective immediacy that they seem to wage wars of independence against both the camera and the directors’ media-philosophical inquiries.
February 25, 2013
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Rouch and Morin at once provide a fascinating snapshot of a society on the verge of political upheaval (among the interviewees is a 20-year-old Régis Debray, who would become a close associate of Che Guevara) and an auto-critique of the vérité movement even before it had rightly begun.
February 22, 2013
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Part ethnographic survey, part theoretical discourse, part filmmaking free-for-all, this seminal gabfest takes a documentary gimmick—set up a camera and a microphone on the street and then ask random passerby whether they’re happy—and breaks it apart; the result is not only a revealing and important document of a time and a place, but also a landmark examination of how people perceive themselves and of how cinema works.
April 20, 2012
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Even more than his ethnographic works about Africans, Chronicle makes it evident in its graceful spontaneity why Rouch was a key influence on the French New Wave, so it isn’t surprising to discover in the closing credits that Raoul Coutard — the key cinematographer of that movement, who shot most of the first features of Godard, Truffaut, and Demy — worked on this film as well.
January 01, 2001
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