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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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
This film, made in the summer of 1960 by the sociologist Edgar Morin and the ethnographer Jean Rouch, aimed to be as 'true as a documentary, but with the content of a fiction film.' Facilitated by improved technology (16mm film, sync sound, light hand held cameras) it pioneered a direct or live aesthetic dubbed 'cinema verite'. It was to film 'true life', but engage on a subjective level, getting people to talk about their experiences and ambitions, and most notably, whether or not they are happy. What emerges is an absolutely overwhelming cinematic experience, a film that is deeply affecting but also that makes you think. The film begins with a market researcher, Marceline, on the street, asking people whether or not they are happy. This sequence seems to me both to confirm the importance of human relationships and point up the dissatisfaction that living in a society about to tip into consumerism engenders. The film then moves to concentrate on a set of characters. Morin was criticised for his structural approach, typing his characters (i.e. a factory worker, a petit bourgeois, a student), but a real sense of the individuals involved shines through, notably in the sequences with Angelo and Landry chatting, and Marceline recounting her experience of deportation during the war. The most revolutionary part of this film is that the makers demonstrate the impossibility of documentary objectivity when they film themselves filming - they show how the truth of the film is constructed. Questions of authenticity abound. At the end of the film, they screen it to the characters involved. Even those filmed are unable to decide whether they were acting ('hamming for the camera') or being themselves. Morin and Rouch conclude they have failed in their aim to offer a slice of life, as the very act of filming something transforms it. Truth is elusive in the attempt to represent the everyday. This film is far from a failure however - watch it and be blown away.
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