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I love this film. I remember seeing it years ago on a NYC PBS station on a rainy night and I was immediately drawn into it. A southern documentary filmmaker starts to make his film about Civil War General Sherman but he breaks up with his girlfriend and goes back home down south and starts filming everyone in his life (his parents, his siblings, his friends) and they are all giving him advice on his struggling film career and his love life and they all try and fix him up with all these "southern belles" and he just films it all. It is fascinating and funny and real. Well, as real as life can be when you know someone has a film camera on their shoulder and they are filming you. I also highly recommend the two follow-ups to this "Time Indefinite" and "The Six O'Clock News". Ross McElwee is an incredibly talented filmmaker and a sweet, neurotic human being who has no trouble baring his soul on film. Check this film out.
I intended to watch only the first ten or fifteen minutes of this film, on a recommendation by a professor. I ended up watching the whole 2 hours 40 minutes, engrossed at every turn. I don't know why this film is so good; by all rationale, it probably ought to have turned out to be dull and pretentious. Instead, Sherman's March is an incredibly patient and passionate examination of oneself, the pain and frustration that come with mid-life depression, and the quasi-comic mystery surrounding Southern culture. I don't often find myself so enveloped in documentaries, particularly those that stop pursuing their apparent narrative ten minutes in and take on a totally new and divergent direction. But this film works. In filming his relationships with a number of different women over the course of a year, McElwee reveals himself to be a deeply frustrated individual, whose penchant for chasing life with a camera proves both constructive of an insightful film, as well as destructive to his own sense of balance and structure in his own life. The result is often funny, occasionally discomforting, and periodically profound. One sequence ends with McElwee's filmed conversation with a woman with whom he has tried to forge a romantic involvement out of an ancient friendship; the sharpness with which they speak to each other is jolting. McElwee manages to evoke an entire persona for himself - whether authentic or not - with scenes like these, at the same time drawing an insightful - if slightly overblown, though satirically so - comparison of himself to William Tecumseh Sherman and his devastating Civil War march through the South. This is a remarkable film for its willingness to examine the subtext of its maker's life.
Ill admit it.......I liked the three hours of woman chasing and obsession.
Ross begins his documentary intent on the journeys of W. Sherman. Sherman
was a southerner turned "yankee" during the civil war. Sherman's march
through most of Georgia and the Carolina's left a painful scar of our
country in troubled times. Ross parallels this scar to that of his present
day life. Present day 1986 that is. And quite easily, this documentary
changes tone as Ross becomes obsessed with the women he encounters on the
way. At times he does jump back to "Sherman's March", but the lure of lust
and love prove to be too much for Ross.
After seeing this movie, I ask myself, What did I just see? It took a while to think about this documentary, and it opens up thoughts of life and love. I really want to know if this was calculated to document a mans love of women, or a mans love of war. Sit down, watch, and be amazed by the documentation of life in this era, by following the path of a civil war leader.
First off, I'm not sure what this movie has in common with "The Road Warrior," which is one of the movies recommended on the IMD "if you enjoyed this movie." This movie cannot be compared with most other films because it is a documentary about the search for one man's inner happiness. Ross McElwee is a filmmaker commissioned to make a movie about the Civil War. Right before he begins his odyssey, his girlfriend leaves him. He's stuck with a camera and no inspiration to follow Sherman's trail through the south. His new odyssey is quite different than any historical documentary, and thank God for it. It is so wonderfully entertaining and funny because McElwee is a well-spoken, charming and insightful filmmaker. And a natural comedian to boot! His struggle to find true love in the modern south plays like a country fried steak version of Woody Allen. And the women he encounters are nearly as unforgettable and entertaining. This film and his follow-up, Time Indefinite, seem to serve as his personal catharsis. Normally I would cringe at the thought of watching someone make a movie just to better him or herself. But I have yet to see a more personal and entertaining documentary than Sherman's March.
Yowch! Some of these comments are so negative! The anonymity of the internet seems to have spawned this new subculture of jaded dissing. I've seen "Sherman's March" four times (and its sequel, "Time Indefinite," twice) and loved it every time. It's true that this movie is very slow, very long, and very subtle, but those are not necessarily flaws. If you watch "Sherman's March" with that it mind, it can be a tremendously rewarding experience - touching, subtly funny, and thought-provoking. Ross McElwee will never have the commercial viability of Quentin Tarantino or Arnold Schwartzenegger or whoever, but I don't think his "home movies" are intended to be viable. They're just intended to be good old-fashioned well-crafted art. Some people get mad when movies have no freakishly attractive people or satisfyingly pat endings or giant explosions, and some people feel grateful. This movie is for the latter camp.
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.
Sherman's March is three hours of footage from a broken man's life. Ross McElwee takes us on a journey to make a documentary on Sherman's March, but ends up showing us a sequence of extensive real life footage from his subsequent crisis in love. The picture feels like a home movie. Experiencing so much of the director's personal life is an unusual experience and takes the motion picture somewhere it doesn't often go. However, the movie is long and I feel it should have been further edited for the public. it is a bit egocentric to expect people to spend so much time watching some random guy's life.
McElwee has done many other similar works, some more deeply moving -- the one about his father the doctor, for instance. But this gives a great introduction to his "style" -- the guy who takes the camera everywhere and films his life, and not just in trivial ways -- ala web cams today. A tribute to women -- and women rate it much higher than men, as the imDb voting demographics show. This pre-dated the well-known and wildly successful "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" -- some would call it an outright steal or rip-off of "Sherman's March." As far as I know, McElwee had nothing to do with and is not credited in "Sex, Lies, and Videotape. "Sherman's March" clearly influenced "SL & V," to put things more mildly. SL&V has marketing written all over it, from the title to the stars (admittedly not as famous during the time of the shoot as now), and in its focus on sex and masturbation, particularly. "Sherman's March" has indie-film written all over it; it's not about stars, only indirectly about sex, and everyone plays themselves: it's a documentary. I liked all of that and it was a fresh approach when it first came out. Most such films are not done skillfully, thoughtfully, or edited well enough to make for excellent viewing. You may or may not like McElwee personally; he's a bit of an odd-ball, but a kindly one. His women friends are the focus here, however, and he wisely gets out of the way most of the time. Well worth your time.
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
This is a great doc just out on DVD. Ross McElwee originally set out to shoot a documentary following General Sherman's Civil War path in the south, but then decided to shift the focus, upon a break-up with his girlfriend, to the various single women he comes across while ambling through the south. In the purest of D.I.Y. film-making, McElwee stars, operates the camera, handles sound, and narrates...all at the same time! On the surface, this loose and rambling documentary might appear too self indulgent, but it does indeed succeed its task of tracking General Sherman's historic march, albeit in a most unique way. It's the documentary equivalent of "Adaptation."
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