directed by Ross McElwee (1986)
Ross McElwee’s 80’s classic documentary, Sherman’s March, is from a clearly pre-realty show time, where the interview subjects are unconcerned with the end result of their musings and are completely unbridled when discussing everything from cellulite exercises, Tarzan fantasies, plans for finding love with Burt Reynolds, fanny tucks, and isolationist militia goals. In many ways, the movies is the greatest fumble, or at least derailed intention put to film. Originally planning to follow the path of the infamously brutal march of General William Tecumseh Sherman through the South during the Civil War which left the land and its people completely devastated. Instead, McElwee meets and falls haplessly infatuated with a succession of unusual Southern women.
It’s a very personal documentary and that can often, almost always be tough to pull off without seeming navel gazing and obnoxiously self absorbed. This moving sometimes toes the line but manages to remain absorbing because of the ease and comfort of it all: whether pontificating on the horrors of war, or wondering why his relationships have failed. He manages to capture quiet magical scenes of real life in all it’s strangeness without ever seeming forced or boring (even at a long, very meandering run time of over two and a half hours).
It took years for the excellent Grey Gardens to gain popular with the educated movie loving masses (I know I pushed it on people for years) and I hope this quirky gem is next on the list.