Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chronicle of Summer (1960)

During one of yesterdays lectures we studied 'Chronicle of Summer' a film by Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch. It was of the period of Observational Cinema - certain style of documentary film making. Refers to film movements 40-60 early ’60 cinema verity - in USA direct cinema. Slightly different - Cinema Verity - against documentary as propaganda. As it came from WW2 - fed up with the War movements, Germans, Russians even Americans, documentary was about the opinions. ’45 onwards looking at ways to engage, ways we would explore the world, rather than being told the way it was.

They looked to search for a new freedom of making documentary. R. Frank, J. Kerouac the restless spirits, what they tried to do get away from the tag. Line. Robert Franks - started to get away from the anchor of the tag line. Walker Evans did this in (let us now praise famous men (soon to read) and it helped photography get recognized as an Art

To Anchor images is the way through text. (J.Berger) - Photographers in 1920-30’s visual images spoke, then sent to editors they’d add a tag line. How the the linguistic message is repressive to the photographers creative nature.

The old documentaries of before had a commentary - acted like the tag line. ‘The voice of God’ (voice over) - the correct no other way. i.e. This is man walking over the ice plane.

Film makers trying new techniques get away from telling the way people wanted to. 16 mm camera after the war, lots of film so they got to buy cheap and play.

Then the Italian neo-realism (fiction films) after WW2 make narrative fiction films, all made on location. If you make a film about film about Rome go to Rome, then rather than actors use real people. Some times used famous people. Emphasis on the everyday. Incredible focus on the normal boring everyday life things - waking up, boil a Kettle, smoke then drink coffee. - Not a novel - basic emotions. Take as it source the texture of everyday life. 1940’s inspiration to photographers, and film makers. Inspired people interested in realism - how can they show the mundane things for so long. All about small details.

In France Cinema Verity got nearer to the real world. ‘cinema truth’ just films people - rather then make them act just films what happens. Direct Cinema in America, much like the fly on the wall. Made a film on mental ‘Titicus follies’ - by Fredrick Wiseman, force feeding, beating mental patients. Just following someone and taking pictures.

Cinema Verity is provocative. Wiseman made very long films, rather than using edits thought they’d cut out the truth. They set up the subjects to talk about things, and see what happens. “Chronicle of a Summer” - made my Jean Rouch, and Edgar Moran. The everyday life reader, project he did on a French village - rolled with reality. They got closer to get on with what was happening around Paris, 1960’s. French atrocities dividing the public, Algeria conflict - soft racism seeing what happens by putting the people together. They kept stopping the film, and got people to watch the film and evaluate how they feel and how it talks about the subject. Good bad etc. Reflective documentary. Observation and reflective nature. 

For myself on a lighter level the film just reflected on everyday life, despite the supposed undertones of the Algerian conflict. And indeed when they confronted an couple of Africans, to a Jewish (not known at the time) lady, she expressed she wouldn't date an African although she enjoyed their dancing. To me this wasn't a racist statement, in was just a matter of fact for her. But then Morin or Rouch expressed they'd look at the woman's arm. They of course had taken offense that merely French people on a whole, enjoyed Africans dancing and nothing else. At this point upon her explaining her tattoo was a Jewish mark, along with her concentration camp number, they fell silent. Perhaps this could have been considered a racial statement, but the format and the overall format of the film lent otherwise.

In so many ways what was shown of Parisian life in the 1960's has not really changed today. At the end of the screening we were asked, 'could you make a film like this today' ?? from my own opinion I don't think you can. We have been polluted with some many docu-soaps and fly on the wall, that we are now a culture of the X-factor, Big Brother show... we all deserve our five minutes of fame, indeed Andy Warhol predicted this "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes."  way back in the 60's. SO by the nature of this style of film making, people are too keen to become the next celebrity and the element of truth is far too complicit and contrived. Maybe I'm wrong and perhaps we would see a great deal of honesty, but for me the biggest revelation in the film was in it's conclusion. This was where they gattered all the subjects together, then screened the movie. Once it was over they were asked what they thought, some were moved, others disgusted. This was a great moment in a reflective practice, and something I am looking to employ in my latest project to be completed before Christmas this year. 

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