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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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Ross McElwee, a native Southerner, started off wanting to make a straightforward documentary film about General Sherman's march, but then his girlfriend broke up with him. The result is an idiosyncratic and personal documentary, as McElwee tries to film his Sherman movie but can only obsess about the various women he meets along the way, and his own personal failings.
"Sherman's March" is funny because of its many characters and lines of dialogue that are so crazy, you'd never believe them if they were in a fiction film. Best of all is Charleen, McElwee's former teacher, who is convinced that Ross just needs to sweep a girl off her feet--even if he's never met her before. And nearly all of the young women McElwee meets come across as kooky--two of them believe that the Apocalypse is imminent and another considers herself a "female prophet." Many of them are attached to men who also seem weird or distant. A feminist lawyer, whom McElwee considers the lost love of his life, wishes she could love him, but is instead obsessed with a guy who collects giant plastic animals. Like I said: you can't make this stuff up.
The Sherman theme crops up now and then, but McElwee could have done more with it. At one point he discusses the strength and courage displayed by the women of Atlanta when Sherman destroyed their city, then cuts to some footage of two self-absorbed actresses--you can't help thinking that Southern women have diminished in quality over the last 100 years. But he never picks up this thread again.
"Sherman's March" is a rambling movie, and at over 2.5 hours, way too long. And though McElwee's deadpan observations, delivered in voice-over, are frequently amusing, he is also a masochist, which diminishes our sympathy for him. He spends time on a near-deserted island, where he is tortured by mosquitoes, ticks, and the knowledge that the only two other people on the island are an attractive female linguist and her boyfriend. Later, he breaks things off with a hot musician (one of the few women who doesn't seem like a kook) in order to agonize over the aforementioned lawyer. Moments like these just make you frustrated with the filmmaker and his quest, not approving of it.
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