Real-life individuals discuss topics on society, happiness in the working class among others and with those testimonies the filmmakers create fictional moments based on their interviews. ... See full summary »
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A surrealistic documentary portrait of the region of Las Hurdes, a remote region of Spain where civilisation has barely developed, showing how the local peasants try to survive without even the most basic utilities and skills.
Real-life individuals discuss topics on society, happiness in the working class among others and with those testimonies the filmmakers create fictional moments based on their interviews. Later on, the individuals discuss the images created with their own words and see if the movie obtained their level of reality. Written by
Jean Rouch is remembered as an oddity in film history, an artist working in between of fact and fiction as well as the era of colonialism and post-colonialism. He is especially often crowned as the founder of ethnographic cinema, but "Chronicle of a Summer" (1961) made by Rouch and Edgar Morin is something a little different. It is the breakthrough film of cinéma vérite or "truth cinema" which had a huge impact on the following French New Wave, most of whose filmmakers admired Rouch.
Already in his earliest documentaries, Rouch isolates himself from his own time by focusing on engagement and immersion instead of observation. Interaction between the observer and his object -- or rather between subjects -- becomes vital. As vital is embracing the presented subjects' personal and collective world views, which form a fascinating entirety in Rouch's "I, a Black Man" (1958). In a word, the other and the self are of the same reality to Rouch.
Although a representative of so-called truth cinema, Rouch and Morin's film does not concern any epistemic and scientific truth, but rather the truth of the appearance of the intersubjective reality. The camera takes part in action, ceases to exist, but at the same is inseparably present. A fabric of real emotions, thoughts, lies and acts is born which can be taken as a truth of one kind. On the one hand, Rouch and Morin attempt to revolutionize the cinema or at least to turn its lens to itself, but on the other, their sociological mission is to find out how does the modern man live. Hence they ask "Are you happy?" from random people in the streets.
Rouch's "The Human Pyramid" (1961) might be more well organized, though utterly poetic, than "Chronicle of a Summer", but the latter is more essay-like which also associates it with the new wave. The remarks of the meta-level are not as detached from the rest of the film as in "The Human Pyramid", but still fact and fiction merge in an essential fashion.
However, Rouch didn't only affect new wave filmmakers for his cinematic methods but also for his image of the world and man. There is indeed great human beauty in the film. During the interviews and other scenes, the camera becomes a penetrating mirror to whom one can reveal all of one's secrets. Perhaps this also happens to the viewer in a lesser extent. On one level, Rouch and Morin reveal the need to talk and share in an individualistic society. On the other, they tell something enduring about man, life and cinema.
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