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Customer Review

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'll take this over reality TV anytime!, December 24, 2004
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This review is from: Sherman's March (DVD)
I saw this film for the first time with my wife. Our reactions were mixed. I loved it. I was fascinated by the characters, and the by the not-so-subtle way in which the intellectual pursuits of a scholar are subordinated to his personal life and hang-ups. As an academic who is often painfully aware of the overlap between my life and my work it was refreshing to see this overlap admitted so openly -- even embraced to the point where it becomes the subject matter of the entire investigation.

My wife, on the other hand, was bothered by what she saw as Mr. McElwee's pretentiousness, and his "exploitation" of the women in the film. It is true that all of them were more or less willing participants -- and a commmon feature of each of them was that they were in some way entertainers who were interested in being seen -- still, she thought, the very fact that they revealed themselves and he could step back and observe and judge set up what she saw as an unequal situation. Having said that, she did admit that the film held an undeniable fascination for her.

As it turned out, we talked about the film on and off for the next few days, even comparing people we know and ourselves to the characters revealed there. That is, I think, one of the signs that the film was effective. In a time when most films, and certainly to my mind all of reality TV, are forgettable, this film is not. I think Mr. McElwee sets himself up to be vulnerable to the criticisms my wife suggests -- and does not shy away from them. As a character, and as narrator of his own story, he is neither hero nor villian but is a real person, and that is what makes his stories interesting.

I can't wait to see the other films he has made -- like Time Indefinite and, most recently, Bright Leaves that is currently in (selected) theatres.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 27, 2009 2:29:33 PM PST
thames says:
"exploitation" of women? Why exactly. I don't follow. I'm going to check this movie out then.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2009 8:09:02 PM PST
Nate says:
"Exploitation" may be too strong - perhaps "objectification"? Of course what my wife objected to was not "exploitation" on the scale of something like "Girls Gone Wild." It is much more subtle than having a camera leer at cleavage. What bugged my wife most was that when McElwee breaks up with a girlfriend he met in the course of filming, he portrays himself as the aggrieved party while pretending not to be able to understand why the woman might have been put off by his constant need to film everything. So he "exploits" his own intimacy with the audience to manipulate perceptions of the situation.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 5, 2009 11:37:15 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 6, 2009 5:36:22 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2010 9:26:31 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 22, 2010 9:27:24 AM PDT
He had a giant camera on his sholder the whole time. These women knew that. Give me a break. Some come off as genuine and you care about them and some are idiots. Same as the men.
Welcome to real life.

Posted on Apr 18, 2013 9:22:18 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 18, 2013 11:30:10 PM PDT
Yeah. I just saw this, and it's amusing how clearly most of the women he films seem to luxuriate in the attention - probably not so much in McElwee's attention as that of the camera itself. Feminists can be so hypocritically tiresome about this - it took me a while to figure it out, but the key to turning on a woman is to desire her. Being desired ferociously, but without emotional dependance, creepiness or vulnerability is usually catnip to most women. I suspect that that line against "objectification" is actually most often an expression of sublimated envy.

Because the entire function of a camera is objectification, isn't it? No matter who or what it records, the entire purpose is to rip that moment from the present and communicate a simulacrum of it to an unknown future audience. It makes the person filmed the object of that attention, no matter the response it elicits in that audience. Such complaints - that the women are objectified - only suggest that the complainer is offended by that imagined reaction, nothing more. In the case of the "feminist" critique it is the assumed erotic response of the imagined audience is offensive to them, right? Again, the question is why such offense? When it the depiction is clearly enfantilzing or otherwise demeaning of the woman depicted, I understand the negative critique. But in McElwee's case, his objectification of the women involved is most often from my point of view a demonstration of their power over him, amounting to his emasculation. Because the object often exerts that sort of power over the audience, where the object somehow triumphs over the subject in the act of being beheld. That's the power of a beautiful woman that so terrifies and offends everyone, men and women both. That's in part what McElwee's film is about, I think, his paralyzing ambivalence about, and ultimately his collapse before his own desire..
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