Reviews and notes
Festivals: Berlin, Sydney, Munich, London Film Festivals, 1986.
Grand Prize: Best Documentary, U.S. Film Festival, 1987
is a fresh, vastly entertaining panorama of the American South as seen by a man who's looking for romantic love at the same time as he's shooting a film. It also provides a wry, satirical portrait of the man, film-maker Ross McElwee who, early on in the piece, is firmly informed by his sister that toting a camera is a great way to attract the female attention she's certain he needs. His original intention had been a film to retrace the route of the victorious General Sherman, the man who burnt Atlanta and whose ?total war? against the civilian population makes him even now a hated figure in the South. Instead his film is shaped by the women he met on the way. And even if we don't share his erotic interest in all or any of these women, there's much else about them - and their circles of acquaintance - to marvel at.
The film remains haunted by some of the anxiety that quickened McElwee's interest in Sherman in the first place: ?total war? now equals nuclear holocaust and we see a South determined not to be the victim of a second devastation. We're also drawn into McElwee's dry, deadpan explorations of the limitations of voyeurism, the relationship between watching life and watching art and the possibility of disappearing down a crack between the two. Subtitled "A Meditation on the Possibility of Romantic Love in the South during an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation," Sherman's March
is definitely that and a great deal more. It?s as densely populated, thematically rich and coherently wide-ranging as the best comic novel. The long ridiculed notion of cinema v?rit? is vindicated and sent up all over again in one of the best American movies of the year.
- Bill Gosden, 23rd Wellington Film Festval 1994.
It paints a casual but telling portrait of the white, middle-class South, where prosperity is tinged with paranoia and religious fundamentalism, where the landscape is dotted with statues commemorating past destruction and nuclear-power plants threatening future apocalypse? though this meditation reaches no conclusions, by the end its ideas have dovetailed so neatly that it?s hard to believe that Sherman's March
was not scripted, that it?s not a fiction film disguised as a documentary. How else to explain all the graceful coincidences, all the happy metaphors that hold it together and make it soar?
- John Powers, L.A. Weekly, 16 November 1987.
Weblink: A review by Scott Tobias, The A.V. Club, 12 April 2004
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