The good: McElwee intricately weaves a portrait of his contemporary South populated by memorable personalities. The bad: He seems unable to think of women through any other lens than his own relationship to them. Though he recognizes this and even draws attention to it (for example by including shots where he "forgot" to turn on his tape recorder) I'm not sure that this recognition is enough.
I'm not sure a film-maker's soul-searching schlump through the South, dreaming of nuclear holocaust, lusting after various eccentric women (all while making a pretense of shooting a Civil War doc) is to everyone's taste. But I loved it. Yes narcissistic, but also poignant, funny, and weirdly wonderful. Beautifully composed at times too. People in the Eighties were lonely too.
A one-of-a-kind documentary that when you describe it would seem to be an unbearable viewing experience but instead turns into something unique and hypnotic that holds up to repeated returns. http://eddieonfilm.blogspot.com/2010/09/only-important-things-in-life-are.html
This movie changed my life when I saw it in 1986. It was my first inspiration to make a film myself (though it would take me many years to actually do that). SHERMAN'S MARCH made me realize that cinema could be whatever you wanted it to be; and as an innovative personal documentary it makes it so clear that the art of storytelling is all in HOW you tell it.