According to stories widely reported, Rouch adopted the hand-held style after losing his tripod in a river in Niger. In the landmark CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER (1961), Rouch and his co-director Edgar Morin asked Parisians the simple question, "Are you happy?" The answers created a stunning document of contemporary life in the city.
In 1998, Rouch attended New York's Docfest, where he presented a screening of CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER and participated in a discussion about cinéma-vérité filmmaking with Al Maysles and D.A. Pennebaker. "A film is a thing you can touch and smell," he said at the time, "It's a sort of love affair."
"Rejecting both the idealism of Robert Flaherty and the didacticism of Joris Ivens and John Grierson, Rouch aimed for the immediacy of television, without its superficiality," wrote Ronald Bergan in The Guardian, in one of the many obituaries about the filmmaker. "He believed that the camera's intervention stimulated people to greater spontaneity, expression and truth without asking them, as in the American Direct Cinema, to act as though the camera was not there."
Continuing with a quote attributed to the director, the paper added, "The camera eye is more perspicacious and more accurate than the human eye," he said. "The camera eye has an infallible memory, and the filmmaker's eye is divided."