Photographic Memory | Chicago Reader

Photographic Memory

87 minutes 2012

Ross McElwee is a poet of memory and, on a larger scale, history: his classic documentary Sherman's March (1986) began as a chronicle of the Union general's devastating campaign through the Confederate south but eventually grew into a comic confessional about McElwee's romantic misadventures as he was making the film. Photographic Memory operates on a similar trajectory, though in this case McElwee is old enough for both past and present to be drawn from his own life experience. He begins by chronicling his contentious relationship with his rude and rebellious 21-year-old son, Adrian—like his father, a compulsively creative person—but also interpolates his own experiences as a raging 21-year-old visiting the little town of Saint Quay, France, and his return trip in the present day to track down the people he met there. Marked by McElwee's introspective voice-over, the movie is an act of self-reckoning quite unlike anything else in recent documentary filmmaking.

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