DIRECTOR: ROSS MCELWEE
CAST: ROSS MCELWEE, DEDE MCELWEE
Setting out to make a film following the trail of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s pillaging of the South, director McElwee’s experience of a blindsiding breakup would redirect his movie into undiscovered territory, with the filmmaker reconceiving of it as an exhilarating memoir movie made up largely of comic-anthropological encounters with women in which McElwee’s musings on Sherman and the Civil War sit alongside his observations on life, love, loneliness, faith, and the threat of the nuclear war. An unexpected hit upon its original release, thanks in no small part McElwee’s dry deadpan wit, and a work as full of loose ends, bitter ironies, and unexpected reverses as life itself.
This film is a great example of how source material can set you on a path, start things off, but how the sensibility of the interpreter lands you somewhere else entirely. McElwee’s original project shifts during the course of the film, but he still uses Sherman’s March as a backbone to tell a different kind of story, the scope now intensely intimate. The gentle self-questioning of McElwee, this air of pleasant thwartedeness—I love it. It’s rambling and thoughtful and funny and moving, an ur-example of auto-fiction, allowing one’s own life to twist into view.