Jean Rouch’s and Edgar Morin’s Chronique d’un été: Paris 1960
When people are being recorded, the reactions that they have are always infinitely more sincere than those they have when not being recorded.
Chronique d’un été (Chronicle of a Summer) is a documentary film made during the summer of 1960 by sociologist Edgar Morin and anthropologist and filmmaker Jean Rouch, with the esthetic collaboration of director cameraman Michel Brault. The film begins with a discussion between Rouch and Morin on whether or not it is possible to act sincerely in front of a camera. A cast of real life individuals are then introduced and are led by the filmmakers to discuss topics on the themes of French society and happiness in the working class. At the end of the movie, the filmmakers show their subjects the compiled footage and have the subjects discuss the level of reality that they thought the movie obtained.
from French Culture:
In the summer of 1960, Edgar Morin, a sociologist, and Jean Rouch conducted an enquiry into the daily lives of young Parisians in an attempt to understand their concept of happiness. This experimental film follows, over a period of a several months, both the investigation itself and the development of its main characters. The initial question “How do you live ? Are you happy ?” very quickly raises others on a number of key issues: politics, hopelessness, boredom, solitude… The interviewees eventually meet as a group at the first showing of the film, to discuss and approve or disapprove of it ; the two co-authors are confronted with the reality of this cruel but exciting experiment in “cinema-vérité”.
When Jean Rouch first saw Michel Brault’s Les Raquetteurs, he was amazed by the French-Canadian cinematographer’s work. A year later, as Rouch worked on Chronique d’un été, the progenitor of cinema-vérité, he became worried about the static and verbose interviews conducted by his co-director, Edgar Morin. Rouch remembered Brault’s finesse at injecting life into shots with his “walking camera” and called him to the rescue.
Brault began shooting Chronique in Paris’s Place de la Concorde, and he immediately impressed observers with his camera techniques. Perhaps for the first time in the history of cinema, a French Canadian actually taught something to his French counterparts and was recognized by the French as a master of his craft. The difference between scenes shot by Brault and those filmed by other contributors is striking. One need only compare the lengthy, stagnant dinner sequence to that of Marceline walking through Les Halles and discussing her deportation under Nazi occupation to appreciate Brault’s distinctive, dynamic approach. The truth of this scene is not to be found in words, but rather in the relationship between Marceline and the space through which she moves.
by Barbara Bruni in senses of cinema
Chronique d’un été – independent filmmaker Jarrod Whaley review in Oak Street Films.
Technique of Film Editing By Karel Reisz, Gavin Millar
page 301-302 We are cut short just as it gets interesting but there is enough to make us think.
 In a number of ways even before the cutting room they had shaped their material.
 The problem of spontaneity and honesty comes to the fore in this film. The film allegedly puts itelf in the hands of its subject totally. Rouch and Morin are, so to speak, at the mercy of their material in a new way. The subject of the film is the actions, reactions and opinions of the people in it, unacted upon, so far as is possible, by the technique of filming it. The role of the editor, it seems is being whittled even finer. But this isn’t so. On the contrary, his position in this situation becomes even more crucial and the moral decisions he has to make even more delicate.
 A vérité director has to be very careful not to misinterpret real people by his organisation of the shooting and editing. It must be admitted that the technical challenges in making vérité comprehensible sometime lead the director/editor into making cuts – even at the shooting stage – which may be good cinema but poor vérité.
Film and Phenomenology by Allan Casebier
Rouch is quoted:
There is a whole series of intermediaries and these are lying intermediaries. We contract time, we extend it, we chose an angle for the shot, we deform the people we’re shooting, we speed things up and follow one movement to the detriment of another movement. So there is whole work of lies. But, for me and Edgar Morin, at the time we made that film this was more real than the truth. That is to say, there are a certain number of things happening, human facts surrounding us….which people would not be able to say any other way….it’s a sort of catalyst which allows us to reveal, with doubts, a fictional part of all of us, but which for me is the most real part of an individual.
Documentary Film Classics By William Rothman
Chapter 4 – Chronicle of a Summer is the sample chapter – pages 69 to 97 – mirabile dictu.
Pages 73-74/ 80-81/87-88/94-95/ are left out, but this is still a good read with these pages on the cutting room floor. If anyone has this book in their collection, grateful for a copy of this chapter. You can’t buy every film book you see, and this particular one would for me mainly be for Chronique d’un ete and Bunuel’s Land Without Bread.
In an interview some years after making Chronicle of a Summer, Rouch reaffirmed his conviction that film has the power “to reveal, with doubts, a fictional part of us, which for me is the most real part of an individual.” The camera is capable of provoking people to reveal aspects of themselves that are fictional, to reveal themselves as the as the creatures of imagination, fantasy, ans myth they are: This is the touchstone of the practice Rouch calls “Cinéma vérité.”
In Rouch’s view, Chronicle is not simply a documentary, because the people in the film are provoked to manifest fictional parts of themselves. And it is not simply a fiction film, because the fictions it reveals are real. Yet a fiction is also a lie.
In his useful monograph Anthropology – Reality – Cinema, Mick Easton argues that Rouch’s aim in filming is not to make people comfortable so they will reveal themselves honestly and directly to and through his camera. “In the disjunction caused bythe very presence of the camera,” Easton observes, “people will act, will lie, be uncomfortable, and it is the manifestation of this side of themselves which is regarded as a more profound revelation than anything a ‘candid camera’ could reveal.”
Cuban Cinema by Michael Chanan
Chapter 9 – The Documentary in the Revolution
p. 184 – 217
Historical overview: free cinema => cinema verita, mentioning Chronique d’un ete p. 190 – 92
Movies and Methods by Bill Nicholas
p. 279 – 285