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Ross McElwee sets out to make a documentary about the lingering effects of General Sherman's march of destruction through the South during the Civil War, but is continually sidetracked by women who come and go in his life, his recurring dreams of nuclear holocaust, and Burt Reynolds. Written by
Brett Coon <email@example.com>
I really get turned on about the Civil War. And I know it's been a hundred years, and I still don't think we were wrong. Only in that slavery should not be enforced. It should be a right. If you want to be a slave, be a slave. If you don't, fine.
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The "alternative" title Ross McElwee initially came up with captures the mood of the film very well as it was called:
"Sherman's March: A Meditation to the Possibility of Romantic Love in the South during an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation".
Originally McElwee set out to make a documentary following the route General Sherman took during the Civil War and investigate the impact he had on the lives of people past and present who live there, but somehow he ended up marking the lives of past girlfriends and practically every other woman he meets on his journey, interwoven with occasional bits of history.
The film is quite funny in it's own way as well. Charleen, a former schoolteacher of him (if I remember correctly) contributes to some of the funniest moments. She continuously introduces Ross to girls from her seemingly inexhaustible stable of eligible women. One of them even is - without Charleen knowing it - a Mormon! And there's a hilarious subplot involving Burt Reynolds, who increasingly becomes McElwee's nemesis.
Wisely, he trimmed the original title a bit, which he perhaps could have done with the movie itself, which is a bit long, 155 minutes, but it doesn't matter much, especially when watching it at home. At times it can get slow but you just have to settle with his own pace, rhythm and his unique cinematographic style and you will be rewarded. The conversations, the nuclear threat, the clothes and hairdos, it also makes a wonderful time capsule of the 80's. Combined with the occasional touch of history and the wonderful voice-over narration of Ross McElwee, this is a truly inspiring journey of almost epic proportions. Highly recommended.
Camera Obscura --- 9/10
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