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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • French PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • 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

Chronicle of a Summer

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jean Rouch, Edgar Morin
1961 | 91 Minutes | Licensor: Argos Films

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #648
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: February 26, 2013
Review Date: February 26, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

Few films can claim to be as influential to the course of cinema history as Chronicle of a Summer. The fascinating result of a collaboration between filmmaker-anthropologist Jean Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin, this vanguard work of what Morin would term cinéma verité is a brilliantly conceived and realized sociopolitical diagnosis of the early sixties in France. By simply interviewing a group of Paris residents in the summer of 1960-beginning with the provocative and eternal question "Are you happy?" and expanding to political issues, including the ongoing Algerian War-Rouch and Morin reveal the hopes and dreams of a wide array of people, from artists to factory workers, from an Italian émigré to an African student. Chronicle of a Summer's penetrative approach gives us a document of a time and place with extraordinary emotional depth.

Forum members rate this film 8.3/10

 

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PICTURE

Jean Rouch’s and Edgar Morin’s Chronicle of a Summer makes its Blu-ray debut through Criterion, who present the film in its original aspect ratio of about 1.37:1 on this dual-layer disc. The transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.

The transfer is based off of a 2011 restoration of the film, which itself looks amazing. I was expecting a fairly damaged film, primarily because of the free shooting style that was employed, but we get a clean, near-perfect presentation. Damage is limited to just some minor knicks in a few places and the occasional stray hair appearing at the edge with nothing else significant of note.

The digital transfer itself is also very film-like, delivering a crisp image—where the source allows—with a clean rendering of the film’s grain structure. Contrast looks pretty spot on and black levels are deep and inky without destroying details in the darker areas of the screen.

In motion it’s an absolutely gorgeous looking transfer of an impressive restoration. A wonderful surprise to say the least.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Considering how the film was shot, using a customized camera with a rather primitive sound system built in from what I can gather, I was pleasantly surprised by the overall sound quality. The PCM 1.0 French mono track is expectedly a bit flat and can have a tinny sound during moments, but it still manages to sound clear and doesn’t present any noise or distortion. For what the film is and how it was shot it sounds far better than I probably ever would have expected.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion’s Blu-ray edition of Chronicle of a Summer only comes with a handful of supplements starting with the rather lengthy 75-minute 2011 documentary Un été + 50, which features interviews with Edgar Morin and other participants of the film. While it serves somewhat as a reflection on the film, and covers its genesis, the actual production, and what each director brought to the table, the documentary provides the added bonus of including a number of deleted scenes. There’s added discussion about the Algerian conflict and whether one should “desert” to avoid the draft, an added bit at the beach, a sequence where the group go over how to approach people with the “are you happy?” question, and, most interesting of all, a scene where our Renault employee Angelo gets into a heated discussion with a lighting technician for the film who thinks factory workers are “idiots” for not going out to pursue other careers like he did. There’s also more of Mary Lou, an extended bit at the museum, and more. As a making-of it’s pretty skimpy but the deleted footage, which there is an extensive amount of makes it an excellent inclusion.

Criterion then includes a couple of archival interviews. First is a 6-minute 1962 French television interview with director Jean Rouch, who explains why he became involved in the film (fighting racism was the primary goal he claims,) how Chronicle of a Summer fits into the New Wave, and talks about where he thinks cinema is going, particularly “avant-garde” filmmaking. It’s a decent interview but much better is a 1961 interview with film participant Marceline Loridan while she was at Cannes promoting the film. In this interview she talks about her part in the film and goes into more detail about her deportation to the concentration camps when she was a teenager. She talks about her memories, Eichmann’s trial, and her conflicted emotions about the executions of the former Nazis on trial. It runs 7-minutes and is a great find on Criterion’s part.

Criterion then includes a newly recorded interview with anthropologist Faye Ginsburg, who apparently studied under Jean Rouch in 1979. She talks about what she recalls about him personally and then talks about his work, from creating films in Africa to show the effects of colonialism on the people there, to his work with Morin on this film. She talks about the filmmaking style, some of the innovations for the time, the customized synched-sound camera that was used (common now but almost unheard of then) and then the meaning behind the term cinema-vérité. Ultimately a fine scholarly inclusion. It runs 14-minutes.

Overall I was feeling a little underwhelmed by the supplements, despite some good material, but some of the lack of analysis and coverage of the production is made up for in the surprisingly lengthy booklet Criterion includes, sporting an essay by writer Sam Di Iorio that covers most of the 33-pages of the booklet.

In the end I was left wanting a little more, though oddly I’m not sure exactly what else I would have hoped for other than maybe more scholarly material about the film and its impact. But as it stands the supplements we do get are all worth the time to go through.

7/10

CLOSING

Overall it’s a solid release, sporting some intriguing supplements and a surprisingly crisp transfer. It comes with a high recommendation for those looking to own the film.


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