Thursday, January 30, 2014

755. Sherman's March (1986)

Running Time: 157 minutes
Directed By: Ross McElwee
Written By: Ross McElwee
Main Cast: Ross McElwee, Burt Reynolds, Charleen Swansea


So I wake up Wednesday morning feeling like death warmed over and throughout the day I progressively get worse, running a fever of nearly 102 degrees, aching from head to toe and coughing up a lung. It was the result of having caught SOMETHING from my wife, but not the way I wanted to end out seven day vacation from work. Anyway, last night I was starting to feel better and when I awoke this morning, I wasn't feeling too bad either. However, at about noon today the fever came back and just getting up to go to the bathroom was the equivalent of a running a marathon. I somehow still found the gumption today to just lay back with a cold wash cloth and an ice pack and watch "Sherman's March" and as I write this, the fever has once again broken and I'm not feeling too bad! Anyway...on with the show (this is it)...

Ross McElwee is fascinated with the life of Civil War General William T. Sherman and the path of destruction he left behind him during his famous "March to the Sea" and ultimately the North's march to victory. Before heading down south to document Sherman's famous march to the sea, McElwee swings into New York where he plans to spend a few nights with his girlfriend. When he gets there, however, she breaks up with him. He shacks up in a buddies' studio loft for a few days, while sorting things out and ultimately decides to continue on with his film - he is, however, devastated. McElwee heads south, where he meets up with his family and they immediately try to console him by setting him up with a pretty young girl, named Pat. Pat's cute and has aspirations of being an actress. Ross becomes infatuated with her after a while, despite her being a little dim upstairs and even goes so far as to follow her to Atlanta, where she'll audition for a Burt Reynold's film. After a while, the two must part, but Ross continues, meeting up with another woman, Claudia - your typical southern bible banger, whom Ross went to school with and had a crush on then. Later, he travels to an island off the coast of Savannah, where he meets a hippy chick named Wini, who inhabits the island with her on again/off again boyfriend Michael. You're probably getting the pattern by now. What started as a journey to track Sherman's March, turns into a journey to mend a broken heart and for Ross to try and find his love life.

At one point, during this film and also while staving off that boiling temperature, I asked myself "so what's the point?" So this guy got his heart broke and now his documentary about a Civil War General has turned into his journey to try desperately to get laid and look pathetic in the process. I kind of hated the whole idea of it at first and was almost dead set on rejecting it and then I really started to feel for the guy and by about the halfway mark, I really felt sorry for him. His emotions, reactions and sentiments are genuine and your heart really goes out to this guy. You almost have to be an adult and one that's gotten his/her heart broken to really get the film and realize that once our heart's are broken it's only natural that we go in search of validation elsewhere - whether it be through a dim actress or a hippy islander.

How perfect was the situation with Wini, Ross and Michael? Someone needs to adapt that entire segment of the picture into a feature length, fictional film, because it could be such a perfect, heartbreaking movie. Ross loves her, yet she's very difficult - perhaps we've all experience women like her. Not sure what they want, feelings out of whack. And all the while, Michael loves her too, plus she was kind of attractive in a primitive woman sort of way. And how she just scurried around the island with nothing on, what that must have done to Ross, as he tried to ignore it and read her Sherman quotes. On the other hand, forget the feature length, fictional film, because you just can't write stuff this perfect.

I also have to admit I loved Charleen Swansea. As annoying as she was, she was like an amalgamation of so many women I've actually encountered in my real life: pushy, caring and bull headed. It makes you realize, after observing all of these characters and then telling yourself, "they're all real", how great documentaries can really be. I actually really liked this a lot and kudos to it for making me forget about being sick for a little while. Hell, who knows, I may have even actually liked it more if my brains weren't boiling.

RATING: 7.5/10  I'm not sure how it will fair in my TOP 20, but I'll try hard to find it a spot somewhere.


January 30, 2014  11:04pm


  1. I liked how McElwee felt free to abandon his original goal and present the story that evolved during his filming. I enjoyed the raw, vulnerable feeling of the film.
    Sorry you haven't been feeling well, and I hope you're feeling better soon.

  2. Ok.. for the 4th time, I will try to do a response to this one.
    Something went wrong with the Google account that allows me to post.. and over the last few days I have got increasingly frustrated as it kept loosing replies for me.
    I think I just succeeded in sending a test, so here goes trying to re-write what I wrote..
    This one was a swine to get hold of. Only available on R1 import, I first made a silly accidental (not paying enough attention) Ebay purchase of a History Chanel docu of the same name. Eventually I bought the right one.. and was not impressed.
    I'm afraid I can no longer remember much about the women.. but he annoyed the heck out of me.
    An interesting concept .. to adjust the whole direction of the film in given circumstances.. but I really didn't care about his personal relationship problems.
    Sorry, a miss for me.
    Wish me luck as I now attempt to post this..

    1. Hey it worked! Sorry you've been having such trouble Ray. I was kind of wondering where you'd been. Hopefully everything is solved.

    2. Well, it got me back on.. Somehow it changed my picture whilst I was about it back to one i used before the last disruption. I suspect I have two ghost parallel accounts out there..
      I discovered this morning I wasn't getting the 'recent comment' again.. but that was some continuing glitch my end, and I've fixed that as well
      Oh Technology.. we can never be friends, we work on totally differing levels...

    3. I DID notice the changed picture. Anyway, welcome back. Hopefully you and technology can iron things out.


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