What Damien Chazelle Learned from Vérité

Inside Criterion / On the Channel — Aug 17, 2018


Fans of Damien Chazelle’s Oscar-winning features, Whiplash and La La Land, may not guess that the director first began his path toward filmmaking in the field of documentary. But even as his recent work has led him to embrace narrative genres like the musical and (in his upcoming release First Man) the biopic, he continues to be inspired by the cinéma vérité tradition he was exposed to as a student at Harvard and by the possibilities of applying elements of naturalism to his own fiction films. For our latest episode of Masterclass, now playing on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, we caught Chazelle earlier this year at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Cinematheque, where he was invited to screen his work and a selection of some of his favorite films. A particularly special part of the program was a live discussion on Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s 1961 Chronicle of a Summer with Chazelle and Professor Kelley Conway, who talked about the evolution of documentary cinema in the sixties and the ways in which nonfiction films have influenced his work with actors. In the above excerpt, Chazelle explains what he finds “endlessly moving and fascinating” in one of the key scenes from Rouch and Morin’s vérité masterpiece. Head to the Channel to see the full video along with Chazelle’s debut feature, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, and our full edition of Chronicle of a Summer.