Photographic Memory (2011)
Directed by Ross McElwee
With his son growing older, film maker Ross McElwee begins to reminisce about his first few years of adulthood. As tension between himself and his son grows, Ross decides to travel to France to see the places he had lived during a year overseas. This trip down memory lane is an exploration into his journals, and a search for a woman who left a permanent mark on his life.
This is an incredibly well-made documentary from Ross McElwee (Sherman’s March). The film is not only a look back at the time he spent in France. It’s also a look at the dynamic relationship between him and his son. Despite their obvious similarities, Ross and his son seem to have drifted apart. This separation is nicely captured without feeling like a home movie. The movie takes advantage of old footage and photographs from McElwee’s past. These elements help to bring his experiences to life and create a great contrast with the way things look upon his return to France.
This film does seem to dwell on things a bit much at times. My only issue with this film is the tendency for McElwee to obsess. It’s not a huge issue, but with this film he often gets caught up in his own obsessions which seem to slow the pace of the film. He seems to stress minor details that don’t generate much interesting content. Thankfully his obsessions also include the mystery woman from his past, keeping it interesting throughout.
The autobiographical nature of this film actually creates a real interest in Ross and his son. I can’t nail it down, but I think that Ross McElwee has found a way to make his own life interesting to the viewing public. This isn’t something that is done overtly, it just seems to happen with his unique style of film making. I would recommend this to anyone who’s interested in great documentaries. I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Thanks! I can’t wait to see a bit more of his work. Bright Leaves was pretty cool.