This weekend I caught up with this 157 minute documentary. Like Killer of Sheep and Stranger Than Paradise (and many others, of course), Sherman's March is a key work in the history of American independent filmmaking. But somehow it's just now come to my attention.
Ross McElwee's film is absolutely not for everyone. It's lo-fi, quirky, slow, long, and even a bit austere in its approach. But it's also very personal, without ever really being abrasive or intimate, in an overly exposed way.
I'm always looking and thinking about ways to make my own work more personal without making it self-absorbed. It's a tough balance to strike. And whenever I find a filmmaker who can consistently entertain me while talking about themselves, I usually embrace their work (Woody Allen, for instance). Obviously, it's easier when the filmmaker has a comic streak; it just lightens the whole venture.
One of my favorite contemporary filmmakers is Andrew Bujalski, and particularly his film Funny Ha Ha. If you like that film, I highly recommend this documentary. Bujalski, like McElwee, really lets you in on his awkwardness, insecurities, anxieties, but he does it with real nuance, grace, and of course, occasional humor. Some would call both of these films mumblecore, I would simply call them very fine works by very patient and bold filmmakers.
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