This landmark documentary, co-directed by Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme, was filmed in May of 1962, just after the passage of the Évian Accords, which officially ended the Algerian War. During this “first springtime of peace”—the first time in 23 years that France was not involved in any war—the filmmakers interviewed a random assortment of people on the streets of Paris, an endeavor that was made possible by new technological advances, such as portable 16 mm sync cameras. (An important predecessor for Marker and Lhomme’s project was Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s Chronicle of a Summer, a Paris portrait released in 1961.) Marker, unseen, prompts his interviewees—ranging from highbrow engineers to a destitute mother to an Algerian teenager to a West African student—with questions about their personal lives and their feelings about larger political and social matters. Giving shape to these candid responses is Simone Signoret’s piquant, poetic narration (co-written by Marker), which balances astringent assessments about Parisians’ disengagement with the world with an unequivocal empathy for many of the film’s interlocutors.
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