Ménilmontant takes its name from a neighborhood in Paris, and is set in the early industrial era. The film follows two women who were traumatically orphaned in their youth, and tells a story without the use of intertitles. The score by Paul Mercer was haunting and added much to my experience.
Released in 1963, Chris Marker’s Le joli Mai was one of the first and finest examples of cinema vérité to come out of France. Poetic, witty, complex, the film uses as its initial focus the spring of 1962, the first spring of peace for France since 1939. With rooftop shots of Paris on the screen, the narrator in the opening commentary tells us: “For two centuries happiness has been a new idea in Europe, and people are not used to it.” In the very political film which follows, Marker examines that idea of happiness on the small, private scale and on a larger, societal scale.