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'March' Takes Scenic Detour

July 08, 1993|LISA HOPPER

Don't let the documentary tag deter you from grabbing "Sherman's March" off the video store shelf. It's not your typical fact-packed movie.

Although filmmaker Ross McElwee began his project with the apparent intention of retracing Union Gen. William T. Sherman's Civil War path of destruction through the South, history is forgotten as McElwee is distracted by the women he discovers along his journey.

Like a home movie in which Grandma has forgotten the camera is running, "Sherman's March" catches those precious moments in life that are around us always but that we often fail to notice.

The candor of McElwee's interviews gives the viewer a voyeuristic feeling.

In one humorous scene, McElwee films a young woman showing him the squatting exercises that help get rid of the cellulite on the back of her thighs. "See this cottage cheese?" she asks while squeezing her thigh together for McElwee's lens, then admits to having to be careful doing these exercises for the camera because "I'm not wearing any underpants."

McElwee notes later in voice-over: "I wasn't sure how I should have responded to Pat's comment that she wasn't wearing any underpants. I mean, it's not like telling someone you're not wearing any socks."

"Sherman's March" is full of silly observations of real life that McElwee deftly juxtaposes with his commentary, either visual or verbal, to expose an underlying truth. When the fundamentalist Christian in the restaurant preaches to him of the Second Coming and Satan's arrival in hidden form, McElwee pans over to the enormous Easter Bunny walking around passing out candy eggs.

"Sherman's March" may not be as easy to find as "The Terminator," but don't give up; it's worth the search. And if you enjoy "Sherman's March," keep an eye out for McElwee's latest feature, "Time Indefinite," which will be in theaters in September.

"Sherman's March" (1986), directed by Ross McElwee. 155 minutes. Not rated.

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