By May 1962, the Evian Ceasefire Accords had put an end to the eight-year Algerian War, and France was ostensibly unyoked from military engagement for the first time in decades. The filmmakers interview a cross-section of citizens in a variety of neighborhoods to measure the prevailing socio-political climate. With a backdrop of on-going national unease, Parisians’ concerns range from housing to racism to love.
New, lightweight film cameras enabled Marker and Lhomme to capture improvised footage on the streets, part of a genre known as “direct cinema” that dispensed with the artifice of structured documentaries. Yet artful montage leaves no doubt as to the point of view of the directors. From 55 hours of footage and poetic voice-over from Signoret emerges a vivid urban snapshot of a fascinating time and place. Vive la France!