Thursday, April 09, 2009

Fade away

Wow, Ken Burns' "The Civil War" is nearly 20 years old. I remember very distinctly watching it with my family when I was 14 years old. They're showing it now on the new WTTW Prime on the converter box.

I loved "Baseball" and "Jazz," but I believe this documentary is Burns' best. And how good is Shelby Foote? When Foote says the bit about the North fighting with one hand behind its back? It feels tremendously anti-climactic at first, but he has such a understated way of conveying Southern resignation to their loss you feel bad for the Confederacy, if just for a few seconds.

Tonight is 1865 and the end of the war. Burns has footage of the remaining vets marching in the 1920s as old men. Seeing my own grandmother now at the end of her life at 95, the idea of "living memory" is a powerful one, as links to the distant past leave us. I feel for people in these positions, who daily lose those they could truly reminisce with, unable to fully convey what they've seen to a world that can never fully understand it.

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