Chronicle of a Summer (Chronique d’un Eté)

2/02/2017 19:45.
Cert 12

This is a serious, charming and much celebrated early cinéma-vérité documentary of Parisian life in which the film-makers quiz a wide circle of friends about their lives and ambitions: “How do you live? What do you do with your life?” The respondents, all ordinary citizens, discuss topics including racism, economics, war and sexuality – providing the very opposite of the meaningless vox-pops we are daily served up on TV. “Morin and Rouch never lose a certain sense of loose fun. They may have set out to explore some weighty aspects of life in their time and place but they also knew from the beginning that they would likely fail to get what they wanted. What’s more, they find that futility funny and invite us to do the same” – David Bax, Battleship Pretension. (Cert 12)
Dirs: Edgar Morin, Jean Rouch 91mins France 1961

Programme Notes

The second film in our ‘Three French Films’ mini-season was released as Chronique d’un Eté (Paris 1960) in October 1961, and was the result of a collaboration between anthropologist and film-maker Jean Rouch (I, A Negro,1958, The Mad Masters,1955, Six in Paris,1965) and sociologist Edgar Morin. Inspired by such documentary pioneers as Dziga Vertov (Man with a Movie Camera,1929) and Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North,1922), Chronicle of a Summer documents the patterns and performances of everyday life in Paris during the early 1960s. Following on from a practice of Flaherty’s in Nanook of the North, tonight’s film features an epilogue screening and discussion of the finished work within the film itself, showing that the film is more than just an outside observation of what is happening within it.

Whilst Chronicle had a ground-breaking association with what became the Cinéma Vérité school of film-making (a term coined by Morin in one of his texts before the film’s production), the film has gone on to become one of the most significant and quoted of all documentaries. In 2014, it was ranked number six in Sight and Sound‘s Greatest Documentaries of All Time poll. It also features as one of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, alongside Sullivan’s Travels (1941), L’Atalante (1934), and Cría Cuervos (1976).

Acknowledgements:, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (2013)

“It is a fascinating time capsule, the ultimate Cinema Vérité project. What is captured by the camera cannot be replicated because it isn’t scripted, it isn’t prepared. It is the truth, a filmed version of life as lived by ordinary people” Svet Atanasov,

As themselves – Angelo, Nadine Ballot, Régis Debray, Jacques, Landry, Marceline Loridan Ivens, Edgar Morin
Directors – Edgar Morin, Jean Rouch
Producers – Anatole Dauman, Philippe Lifchitz
Cinematography – Michel Brault, Raoul Coutard, Roger Morillière, Jean-Jacques Tarbès
Editing – Nena Baratier, Francoise Collin, Jean Ravel
Original Music – Pierre Barbaud


  • One of the best films I have ever seen
  • Astonishing – I loved it. I’d like to have met all the people who were being interviewed!
  • A lovely time capsule. Very absorbing. At times the talking heads format meant that the film’s forward motion flagged a bit but overall a very intriguing snapshot of a world at a time of great change told by people trying to make sense of it all. And my – how they smoked!
  • A wonderful chronicle [illegible] happiness and people’s vulnerabilities – and that brought them all together
  • An excellent experience that not only showed us a slice of Parisian life but formed the benchmark that all documentaries now aspire to
  • I thought this was sinking into a long documentary about unfulfilled people living grey lives but suddenly, with the discussion of Algeria and the Congo, it came alive with swift changes of subject and scene – then (it was) hard to keep up with
  • The proletariat seemed much more aware of their alienation in 1960. Very interesting about Algeria and the Congo
  • Gritty, honest, with varied opinions and characters – never boring
  • A fascinating and engaging film
  • Overall, a very good film – a bit amateurish but very authentic. The thought of the concentration camps stirred up some emotions
  • Some great footage of 1960s Paris with real insights into the lives and relationships of the interviewees
  • Street interviews would have got a different response, perhaps, if the film-makers had explained they were doing a survey. Marceline was very moving, otherwise people seemed in places very bored with their jobs – which is sad. Much of the film seemed very pessimistic and negative
  • I did feel that I was a voyeur in the scenes with Marceline
  • Tedious at times but Marceline’s story very moving and Mary Lou’s mental state of some concern – (was this) voyeuristic filming? Plus I’m so glad to be living and working in an almost smoke-free zone now!
  • Interesting idea but not real ‘truth’ nor much merit. Ordinary lives do sometimes have great stories built in to them but not often
  • Interesting and informative about Paris in the ’60s
  • Existentialism, angst and lots of Gauloises – that’s French films for you !!
  • The French never give up on morositie !
  • A bit depressing. The scene of Marceline walking from Place de la Concorde into a warehouse (?) was good. The film lightened up at the end
  • Got to the heart of cinema-verite – and why it doesn’t work!
  • The deliberate absence of narrative was distorting for both audience and participants. What was ‘acted’ and what was ‘real’? Unresolved ….
  • I’m sure it was very good but I was very bored
  • Too many boring bits and also somewhat pointless
  • Too ‘1960s’ and unusual monochrome [sic]
  • Too much talk and not enough France! Most disappointing
  • I was pleased to have seen this film – it was around the time I first visited Paris. Shows my age!


A:12, B:17, C:1, D:1, E:0 to give 82% from 62% of those present.