Friday, June 01, 2007
Just thinking about these two movies lately as I'm working on my next essayistic hybrid personal non-fiction project (this text is from my SF Bay Guardian 2005 Picks List):
This year I also rediscovered two personal lightning bolts from 1986 and was struck by how influential they were to me as a filmmaker. Ross McElwee's Sherman's March is a neurotic self-portrait of his pursuit of the women of the South (and part of a gorgeous newly released McElwee box set from First Run Features). Louis Malle's God's Country is an obscure made-for-PBS documentary about struggling farmers in Glencoe, Minn. (and is set for a 2006 DVD release from Criterion).
Sherman's March is clearly the more innovative of the two, and it has also enjoyed far greater acclaim and exposure. But God's Country is ultimately the more sophisticated. Both films draw portraits of human pathos. But where McElwee reveals wacky, delusional Southern women, with a palpable sense of disrespect for his subjects, Malle interacts with equally extreme characters in the North and manages to express a profound sense of respect and admiration, enabling viewer sympathy for the characters and, ultimately, for ourselves. God's Country is a truly transcendent personal documentary.
And a nice photo of Louis Malle shooting Elevator To The Gallows