Sherman’s March (1986)

Sherman’s March (1986)
Dir. Ross McElwee
157 minutes

This may not be a great film, but I believe it deserves attention from idiots here, especially since many may have never heard of the film. The fillm is unlike anything out of the 400 plus films I’ve seen in the last few years. The fact that it is well done and would entertain many here is another reason to see the film. I would have enjoyed the film more if not for some dead spots, but the film gets an 8 because of its uniqueness and many qualities that I really like (more on that later).

I can reommend this film to most idiots here–although I thought of Mitchell the most, probably because if Mitchell was a filmmaker I could see him making a film like this or wanting to. I think the film will appeal to enough of you that I can say it’s safe to see this without knowing anything more.

The film also appears in 1001 MYMSBYD, and it deserves to be, imo. (I also agreed with the review.)

Now the title of the film is not a good one because it’s not going to draw people who may like this film to see it, and it is misleading. You don’t have to be interested in history to like this film. In fact, if that’s why you’re seeing it, the film will disappoint you. (The subtitle of the film gives a better idea of the content, but I’m leaving that out in the spirit of giving viewers as “pure” an experience of the film as possible.)

Here’s what the film is about: a documentary filmmaker (Ross McElwee) who sets out to make a film about Sherman’s March during the Civil War and it’s after effects in the South gets distracted by real life events, which leads him to make a very different film than he originally intended.

There are several aspects of the film that I really liked (some spoilers):

1. I’m a little tired of filmmakers who take a mean-spirited approach to people in their film. They seem to relish their subjects doing things that make them look stupid. McElwee is not like that. Yes, he does show people doing things that look foolish, but he’s not mean spirited about it either. There’s a kind of acceptance of his subjects that comes out of fondness for them (which may come out of a kind of physical attraction). You don’t get the feeling that he thinks these people are stupid or ridiculous and that he can’t wait to show others. That was really refreshing.

2. I loved the fact that this was a documentary that works like a romantic-comedy. That’s partly what makes it so unique. What makes it even more unique and special is that McElwee is the lead character in his film! His filmming of conversations–that he is one part of and which often involve his attempt at starting a relatiosnhip with them!–are amazing in the way they are natural. The scenes are funny, initimate and painful and that’s not a small accomplishment. Indeed, 1001 MYMSBYD mentions that some critics hailed this as the “Citizen Kane” of “diary films,” and I don’t think that’s an outrageous statement.

3. Going back to the first point about McElwee’s approach to his subjects, what’s refreshing about this film is that McElwee has the courage to put his life on film, too, and, just as his subjects, he can and does appear foolish and even pathetic at times.

4. Some favorite moments and characters:
–I enjoyed his teacher friend,Charlene Swansea, athough I couldn’t tell how much of her behavior was natural or playing up to the camera. Still, she was funny and charming;
–The scenes with his old flame were poignant and sad. By that time, I was really rooting for both of them to get together, even though I knew it wouldn’t happen.

Btw, the film is at the Hawaii public library.

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