General Orders No. 9. Man, what a frustrating movie. There’s one refrain that appears throughout the movie: “Deer trail becomes Indian trail. Indian trail becomes county road.” And so we have a history of Georgia, or part of it anyway. It’s about the march of time, progress, “progress”, cities, bygone ways, and maybe about struggling to suck it up and move on without forgetting where you came from or resenting what’s now around you. Recurring images include water towers, courthouses, cemeteries, rivers, lonely trees in open fields, interstates, damp southern forests. Visually, it’s like 70 minutes of (what in many other films would be used for) b-roll and pillow shots, but a lot of it is beautiful.
There’s narration sprinkled throughout, with sets of lonely sentences bookending the sections of the movie. I feel like maybe he could have used an editor for both text and image. Would that rob it of its deeply personal heart and soul? Maybe. (I also got to wondering at one point if I would like the narration even less if he didn’t have a southern accent. It’s what I grew up around, so there will always be a soft spot. I would not be surprised if the words sounded more crude or banal in another voice.) The title refers to Lee’s Farewell Address, by the way.