Wednesday, November 17, 2010

#195 Sherman's March (1986)


Director: Ross McElwee

Cast: Ross McElwee, Burt Reynolds, Charleen Swansea

Like so many others, I was duped by this film. I nestled down on top of my comforter for what I assumed was going to be a 2 hour long documentary on Sherman with some sort of odd sprinkling of personal-sharing on the part of the film-maker (as I had read in the film description). What I found, however, was one of the first and most noted diary films of the documentary genre.

Ross McElwee is a southerner who is about to start a film that retraces Sherman's march through the south, researching the southerners that are still affected by his legacy. Instead, he is caught off guard by his girlfriend leaving him for her ex just before he begins his journey. Thus, he has a hard time concentrating on Sherman and begins to instead be side-tracked by his own personal shortcomings as a lover, boyfriend, and person.

He begins to explore countless past relationships as well as new relationships set up by his rather determined match-maker friends. Soon, his film becomes almost entirely about this journey with the occasional "Oh, right! Back to Sherman!" moments. One of the greatest moments of this film comes with mindfulness realization that he is not just filming his own life, but perhaps he is filming to HAVE a life. In other words, he begins using his filming as an escape and an excuse.

The self-aware, diary-style film is a very slow moving, plotless exploration of one man's experience of the human condition. The answerless, romantic-comedyless search for companionship and success. For the most part, I loved this film--as I usually always love documentary films! Although interesting and sometimes masterfully edited, I found myself somewhat inattentive at parts–whether that is my own fault or the film-makers is undetermined. See for yourself.

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