1986 self-indulgent documentary
Plot: A guy's given some funds to make a historical documentary about General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea that devastated the South during the Civil War. He gets sidetracked and ends up making a documentary about his failed attempts to find love. Tracing Sherman's path, Ross McElwee meets various women, falls for them, and then watches his chances at a lasting relationship with them fall to pieces. Meanwhile, nightmares about nuclear war keep him up at night.
Full disclosure: I had to give this a bonus point once I found out the title was much longer than Sherman's March. At 2 1/2 hours, this is a little too long, and I'm not really sure who the audience would be for this sort of thing. People like me, I guess. It's got a Woody Allen vibe (or maybe a Michael-Moore-without-a-Point vibe), philosophically self-conscious, and folks annoyed by Woody's filmed dissertations on romantic love would likely be just as annoyed with this but for a lot longer. And it's essentially a guy making his own reality show in a time that predates reality television. But I like how McElwee's inner conflicts revolving around art as well as love become universal, and the freeform approach is as revealing as it is humorous. The film tackles a trio of discursive topics--love, nuclear bombs, Sherman--but they somehow come together as a cohesive whole. It's also a series of nice portraits of random people from America's South, almost working as an ethnological study on the side. You've got militia men, a woman who thinks slavery should be allowed for blacks who want to be slaves, and island-dwelling hippie chicks. The episodic, meandering structure makes this a very watchable, entertaining 150 or so minutes, and chances are, if you don't mind the guy, you'll probably enjoy this movie just fine.