chroniques d’un été, Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin


In 1961, film-maker Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin made the documentary Chronicle of a Summer. Set in Paris in the aftermath of the Algerian war and before the explosion of riots that played such a role in the 19605, culminating in the events of 1968, this documentary holds the distinction of being recognized as the first example of cinema verité. It breaks down the barrier between the camera and the subject in a precursor to a far more participative approach to inquiry and documenting events. and the more recent excesses of “reality television.” Roland Barthes wrote, “What this film engages is humanity itself.” In his review of documentary filmmaking, Claiming theReal: TheDocumentaryFilm Revisited, Brian Winston (1995) referred to Chronicle of a Summer as the key cinéma verité film. Rouch and Morin’s Chronicle might be the condensing image that momentarily makes the cloud of questions that we have gathered during the first days of preparation, move in a coordinated way, produce the rain that clears the dust from the sky, so to say. A preliminary list of these questions:

  • Is there something like a reflex of care? •What is the nature and the culture of care?• How does one measure attention? • How much can and must we frame each other in that attention? • Is there something like careful distractedness? • Does care need to mature, and does care need to be intent on making mature? • What sharing is necessary as a precondition for caring and articulating care? • Is care necessarily concerned with the margin? • Can the margin of a society be part of it’s immune system in a homeopathic way? • Where do we look for remedies? • What eyes do we need, to cure ourselves? • If the cure is already at hand, how can it be put to work? • What diversity is necessary in the ecology of caretakers? • What images, what dreams? • What is a pharmacology of the image? • A contemporary pharmacology of the Gordian knot real-image-language? • What fear motivates us when we refrain from offering care? • What ghosts care for us and what ghosts do we care for? •

I expect Chronical of a Summer to ask how close anthropologist and subject can get. In other words, “how much can one care about/for the other?” The first question that Rouche and Morin pose their intervewies: “Are you happy?” suggests that the film’s makers do care. But the explicit fictional performativity that is created by the presence of the camera, transforms the subjects of Chronical of a Summer into just temporary characters of a play, roles that can be assumed and laid down at will (or at the impulse of a machine such as the camera). This makes the role of care become volatile as well. How long does the cure last? This evokes the need for a repeated ritual of care. The filmmaker then can be a shaman who periodically comes and does his work.

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