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The Way of the Termite: The Essay in Cinema

Sunday, April 5, 2009
3:30 p.m. Chronicle of a Summer
Jean Rouch, Edgar Morin (France, 1960–61)

(Chronique d'un été). This landmark documentary, one of the first shot with the lightweight, mobile camera that became a key tool of cinema verité, was an influence on the French New Wave and subsequent documentary filmmaking. To capture the mood of Paris in the summer of 1960, filmmaker Jean Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin posed a provocative question to passers-by: “Are you happy?” Late UC Berkeley professor William Nestrick called Chronicle of a Summer “perhaps the most sophisticated anthropological film yet made—involving psychodrama, self-presentations by director Jean Rouch and Morin, comments on the film by the subjects themselves. Rouch calls upon ethnographic filmmakers to climb down from the ‘observation post’ stance of the zoom, to take their cameras into their hands and enter into a ballet improvised to the movements of their subjects.”

• Photographed by Raoul Coutard, Roger Morillère, Jean-Jacques Tarbes, Michel Brault. (90 mins, In French with English subtitles, 35mm, Permission Argos Films)

Preceded by short:
Toute la mémoire du monde (All the World’s Memory) (Alain Resnais, France, 1956). Time, space, and memory are the hidden subjects of Resnais’s documentary on the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. The camera follows long walkways, examines dusty corners, rides the elevators. One is reminded of de Chirico, of Cocteau’s Orpheus, of Godard’s Alphaville; of heaven and of hell. (20 mins, English voiceover, 16mm)

• (Total running time: 110 mins, B&W, From French Ministry of Foreign Affairs)