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Blu-Ray : Recommended
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Release Date: February 26th, 2013 Movie Release Year: 1961

Chronicle of a Summer

Overview -

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.

Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
BD-50 Blu-ray Disc
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
French: LPCM Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Special Features:
A booklet featuring an essay by scholar Sam Di Iorio
Release Date:
February 26th, 2013

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


'Chronicle of a Summer' is a pioneering film that captures the culture of 60s France and dives into the social experiments involving a group of people who were merely captured on the street in a certain time and place.

The two directors, Jean Rouch, an anthropologist and Edgar Morin, a sociologist, decided to take their camera to the streets of Paris and ask the common folk of this time that eternal question that most of us answer vaguely or without giving it any thought whatsoever: "Are you happy?" From this simple question, we dive into a sea of political, social, and humanitarian issues. Morin and Rouch thought it would be better to have a specific interviewer to take to the streets, so they hired Marceline Loridan who we see was a holocaust survivor and now works in the field of psychology.

She is constantly behind the mic in the city, interviewing and asking questions to many people of different backgrounds. From her initial question of "Are you happy?", we see Loridan visit a select few interviewee's homes where we gain insight into their core beliefs politically and socially. The kicker is that after the interviews are done and some time has passed, the filmmakers show their subjects their interviews and get their take on what they said to see if it differs, which leads to a fulfilling end.

This is not without its beauty, although the entire movie is a series of interviews, but Rouch and Morin make sure to capture the amazing buildings and cityscapes in 60s France, making the city a character in and of itself. While this might not be the most entertaining movie you'll see this month, it is well worth viewing to see the sexual, political, and cultural awakenings that were happening at the particular time period.

Video Review


'Chronicle of a Summer' comes with a very impressive and new 1080p 2K HD transfer presented in 1.37:1 aspect ratio.

Criterion really knocked it out of the park with this image. The film was originally shot on 16mm, and while the picture is as crisp as it's ever been, it retains a layer of grain to give it that filmic quality and preserves the movie's roots. The contrast here is amazing, with the black levels looking deep. This is as crystal clear as this flick will get with the detail very strong. Nothing looks dull in the B/W image, and with this new transfer, it almost gives it a new life.

Audio Review


This release comes with an uncompressed LPCM mono audio mix and is completely dialogue driven. It sounds fantastic for what you get. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles, but it sounds like it was recorded yesterday. I didn't notice any cracks or hissing, and the dialogue is crystal clear and perfectly situated on the fronts. You won't get a big loud sound her, but this movie isn't about that, and with what you get here, it's damn near flawless.

Special Features

  • Un été + 50 (HD, 75 mins) - Here is a feature length documentary on the film from 2011, which was directed by Florence Dauman. This is why Criterion is the best in the business. They give you everything you want in an extras, specifically a behind the scenes documentary. We see in great detail the origins of the flick as well as interviews with some of the cast and crew. And there is also a good chunk of time devoted to a few film scholars giving their opinons on the movie. And to round it out, there are tons of deleted scenes and outtakes for your enjoyment here. Well worth viewing.
  • Interviews with Jean Rouch and Marceline Loridan (HD, 13 mins) - Here's an interview from 1962 with Jean Rouch, where they discuss the important themes of the movie as well as how it was made. And Lordan's interview is from 1961 where the holocaust is brought up as well as some emotional subjects for her. A must see.
  • New Interview with Faye Ginsburg (HD, 15 mins) - Faye Ginsburg, a Rouch scholar, talks about the director Rouch and his films and life, while having an emphasis on 'Chronicle of a Summer'. This is also great and provides some good insight and information.
  • 34 page Booket - This 34 page booklet has an essay by film scholar Sam Di Iorio and talks about the film and how it relates to society. You can also find out about the transfer, cast and credits, and chapter selections.

'Chronicle of a Summer' is a one-of-a-kind film of its time, one that demands to be seen. Never has a truer portrait of the common people been captured like in this manner. This is truly a day in the life of random people on the street to find out about their lives and thoughts. Criterion did an amazing job with the video and audio presentations and the extras are truly awesome. If you enjoy unusual documentaries, I highly recommend it.