by Laura Hutson
UPDATE: This post initially had the wrong screening time. It is 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Photographic Memory Screening With Ross McElwee
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12
Where: Vanderbilt's Sarratt Cinema
Ross McElwee's films serve as a kind of long-form autobiography, with each individual film functioning as a chapter in McElwee's life story. Together, they're like a first-person version of Michael Apted's Up series. With each successive film, we get to catch up with the filmmaker, track his life's progress and nod knowingly to ourselves when his wife leaves him ("He's always having girl trouble!") or his son is a pain in the ass ("Serves him right, for being so rebellious against his own dad!").
His breakthrough film was 1986's Sherman's March, which follows the just-dumped McElwee as he travels across the American South, trying to film the ways the Civil War still affects the South but allowing himself to get sidetracked by fascinating women along the way. His latest film is called Photographic Memory, a title that could well describe his entire filmography — cinema verité with a voiceover that contemplates the deeper meaning of what's unfolding onscreen. But what unfolds this time is perhaps the hardest to watch yet: McElwee attempting to communicate with his difficult 20-something son Adrian.
As part of Vanderbilt's International Lens film series, McElwee will be at the university's Sarratt Cinema tonight to discuss his work. In anticipation of that visit and the screening of Photographic Memory, McElwee spoke with the Scene from his home in Cambridge, Mass.
Read my Q&A with McElwee here, and watch a clip from Sherman's March below.