Chronicle of a Summer (Chronique d’un ete)

Chronicle of a Summer

…An experiment in filming the truth.

Chronicle of a Summer, by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, is considered a prime example of the cinema verite style of documentary filmmaking, and indeed the term may even have been invented to describe the film and others like it at the time. Cinema verite, or “truthful cinema”, is a documentary style concerned with capturing real life as it is, with no intervention or scripting done ahead of time; a “fly on the wall” experience. It’s very Nouvelle Vague, and indeed the French seem to be the pioneers of this new style of film; the New Wave incorporates many cinema verite techniques into their films. So, why am I going on about the importance of the style of this film instead of talking about the film itself? Well, because I really don’t have anything to say about the film itself. But here I go nonetheless.

This film is principally a chronicle, a recording for posterity of a series of questionnaires and topics about French society circa 1960, as discussed by a milieu of random people corralled into speaking for the camera by a couple of the directors’ assistants, who literally go around picking random people off the street and begin talking to them, to get them to open up about the world they live in. This would seem to be quite the enlightening discussion, if it weren’t sooooo freeeeeaking boooooooooring to watch. The film is just that: people talking. There are snippets occasionally of these people as they actually live their lives, but these are short, few, and far between, lasting just long enough for us to catch our breath in preparation for the next bit of “lively” discussion. This is a perfect example of a film idea that looks great on paper, but fails miserably in the execution.

After the first 10 or 20 minutes of this one, I felt I had gotten all that I was going to get out of it, and watching the rest of the film, I was sadly right. There is a bit of a twist near the end, where the participants in the filmed discussions are shown their filmed discussions as a rough cut of the film, and then invited to discuss what they’ve seen as the end of the film itself. Once again; neat idea, but it just didn’t work at all. There was no spark, no energy, no drive to this one. Now, not all films need this, depending on what they want to do, and in Chronique’s defense, it is almost certainly one of those films, but again, I reiterate what I’ve said about these types of films in the past: that doesn’t mean that the film is watchable, or entertaining, because it is not. At all. This will be a tough one for just about anyone to get through, even at an hour and a half long, and I honestly can’t come up with any type of person to recommend this to. This is just a brick wall of a film, a metaphor I feel to be a little more apt than it otherwise would be, since you may very well be slamming your head into the wall just trying to get through this one.

Arbitrary Rating: 5/10

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