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Jean Rouch Uses His Films To Gain A Better Understanding Of Anthropology.

4250 words - 17 pages

Jean Rouch Claims To Be Pursuing A "Shared Anthropology". How Successful Is He?It is fair to say that Jean Rouch's search for a "shared anthropology" in his films remains a unity of contradictions. In his collection of psychodramas, documentaries and caricature portrayals, Rouch asks some very important questions about cultural trends and human nature and as such it is widely accepted among visual anthropologists that his creative and methodological innovations have a significant influence on document style filming today. To understand if there is any truth to Rouch's claims of pursuing a "shared anthropology", this essay shall be focusing primarily on his films, The Human Pyramid (1960), Chronicle of a Summer (1961) and his classic Les Maîtres Fous (1955).Before looking at the above films, it is important to understand the background and some of the arguments surrounding the work of Jean Rouch and his relationship with anthropology. It is a fact that Jean Rouch has made most of his films in Africa, so much so, that he is habitually referred to as the "father of African cinema." Yet, while Rouch and his films are influential in discussions on documentary film, his work- many believe has little purchase in anthropology itself. Apart from his early anthropology in the form of a Ph.D thesis, Rouch wrote little on his filmmaking and its relationship to anthropology. Most information on this relationship has come through interviews available in a variety of film and anthropology journals.One such example is the: The Cinema of Jean Rouch, which was originally a special issue of Visual Anthropology. Steven Feld writes on "Themes in the Cinema of Jean Rouch" with regard to ethnographic practice. He illustrates to us how Rouch's film making draws on the styles of Robert Flaherty's revelatory cinema and Dziga Vertov's Kino-Eye method of materialist newsreel. Rouch's mixture of these two styles resulted in his method of direct cinema, filmic ethnographic fiction, reflexivity and shared anthropology. This shows us that Fled supports the view that Rouch has been successful is pursuing a 'shared anthropology'.Jean Rouch's "Ethnographic Path" must also be discussed when considering if he was successful in pursuing a shared anthropology. There have been multiple influences on Rouch, but especially that of his mentor, anthropologist Marcel Griaule, of the Museum of Man in Paris. Rouch was similarly influenced by the mysteries of "Songhay cosmology, one of the societies with whom he worked in Niger." An extensive discussion with Rouch by Enrico Fulchignoni offers valuable information about Rouch's, films, his personal experiences and how he modified his film making practices to the situations being documented. It is fair to say that this is as close as one gets to a depiction of Rouch's cinematic method.The surrealist aspects of Rouch's work must also be noted. Rouch was heavily influenced by the European surrealist movement of the 1930s, particularly in his...

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