Sherman's March | Chicago Reader

Sherman's March

What begins as a documentary on the modern south soon turns into an autobiographical quest for true romance. Cambridge filmmaker Ross McElwee, camera in hand and eros on his mind after an old girlfriend deserts him, sets out to film the original route of General Sherman's Civil War march and trains his lens with phallic resolve (this is one of those times when a cigar is definitely not a cigar) on every accessible woman he meets along the way. There's a lot of life-versus-fantasy confusion in McElwee's pickup strategy, but the film that results from his oddball approach is serendipitously rich and quirky. McElwee has a structuralist's respect for the integrity of the frame and natural duration (scenes discover their own point through the accumulation of incident), and the open-endedness of the filming (and the subliminally disturbing tensions that result from McElwee's fanatical devotion to his eccentric modus operandi) makes for some fresh and lively footage. It's about as far as you can get from the standard talking-heads documentary, but the heads that do talk (mostly female, though a few males occasionally intrude) say mostly interesting things that ramify widely and wildly into areas of personal fantasy and southern regional character. It's a multilayered, funny, and consistently engaging film, with the people in it enjoying the filmmaker's affectionate regard, as well as our own (1985).

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