For Reel

Chronicle of a Summer (1961)
December 31, 2016, 6:28 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin
4.5 Stars
chronicle-of-a-summerIf the question of how much photography influences behavior is inherent to every documentary, Chronicle of a Summer makes that subject the main topic of concern. In asking a cross-section of young Parisians whether or not they are happy, sociologist Edgar Morin and filmmaker Jean Rouch don’t so much uncover what it is to be happy, but rather begin to document not only how people present themselves, but how others react to those very presentations. In Chronicle of a Summer‘s final sequence, the filmmakers show a rough cut of the film to a theater full of the film’s subjects, who then proceed to critique what they see. Many single individual interviewees out, remarking on their theatricality and suggesting that some subjects should feel ashamed for the openness that they allowed on screen. Morin and Rouch later reflect that their subjects’ rawness is viewed as theatricality, whereas the opposing guardedness hosts its own slew of dramatic problems. What they discover remarks on the nature of truth and impression, but significantly a society founded on certain lies and emotional repressions. As one subject remarks on her experience in the Holocaust and those around her attempt to piece together what little they know of recent history, it becomes clear that the problems with communication have to do with a certain ignorance and stifled curiosity. That “Are you happy?” reads as a radical question in the early-1960s is part of the problem—these subjects are so unsure about themselves because, above all, it becomes clear that they are absolutely unsure about each other.

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