Chronicle of A Summer

Chronicle of A Summer

by William Rothman

Chronique d'un ete — Chronicle of a Summer, by Jean Rouch, is one of the great documentary films of all times. The acclaimed film scholar William Rothman offers an in-depth and insightful exploration of this landmark film. With the permission of Dr. Rothman, the following is from Chapter 4 of his book Documentary Film Classics.

Documentary Film Classics by William Rothman
Cambridge University Press, 1997

In the concluding sequence of Chronicle of a Summer, the pioneering experiment in "cinéma-vérité" they filmed in 1960 and released the following year, Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin walk the corridors of the Musee de I'Homme in Paris conducting a postmortem of the event that has just taken place. They have screened rough-cut sequences from their work-in-progress to the ordinary men and women of various walks of life who are in it, whose everyday lives are what the film is about, and presided over a discussion, at times heated, of the film's strengths and weaknesses.

A chagrined Morin sums this discussion up by saying, "They either criticized our characters as not being true to life or else they found them too true." That is, they complained that the people in the film came across as actors who masked their true selves, or else as exhibitionists who stripped their souls bare to the point of indecency. Morin laments the audience's unwillingness or inability to recognize sincerity when it is, as he puts it, "a bit more than life-size." As for himself, he declares himself certain that the people in the film were not acting, and that there is nothing indecent about the way they behaved in the presence of the camera.

Full Text

—William Rothman, Documentary Film Classics - Chapter IV


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