“Chronicling” far more than only a summer, Jean Rouch’s 1960 documentary remains the definitive nonfiction project to probe the nature of moviemaking, acting, performance, and perspective. What a novel idea to film a group of random subjects, screen their footage for them, and then film that too. Rouch and co-director, Edgar Morin, do just that. The result is an interesting investigation of what it means to be truly “point-of-view-less” with or without capturing “performance” on-screen. Asking if any kind of film can be truly objective, Chronicle of a Summer, similar to Kiarostami’s Close-up, zeroes-in on a phenomenon that would gradually blossom into a polarizing art form 50 years later (known broadly as “Reality TV”). It’s un-scripted and it’s scripted. What’s being left out is written as much as a script by Tony Kushner might decide what’s being put in. Additionally, with straight-forward discussion by privileged students about race, policy, art, and the state of the world, Chronicle of Summer may look like a precursor to our current divided state. It also foreshadows the indefinable notion of “hipsters” that has become so prevalent in America.
Rouch’s film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time by the Criterion Collection on February 26, 2013. This continues the company’s string of exciting and diverse releases that surpasses what many considered a lukewarm slate in 2011.
The disc will include:
- New high-definition digital transfer of the Cineteca di Bologna restoration of the film, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- Un été + 50 (2011), a seventy-three-minute documentary featuring outtakes and new interviews with codirector Edgar Morin and some of the film’s subjects
- Archival interviews with codirector Jean Rouch and Marceline Loridan, one of the film’s subjects
- New interview with anthropology professor Faye Ginsburg, organizer of several Rouch retrospectives
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by scholar Sam Di Iorio
Though slightly dated, and in my opinion surpassed in resonance by Kiarostami’s work, Chronicle of a Summer is a must see for anybody considering movies as an art form. It’s also an introspective study about the fantasy of “the Movies.”