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USA, 1990 (MIFF 1991)

Director: Jon Jost

The quintessential American independent filmmaker, Jon Jost is a one-man-hand, directing, writing, shooting, editing and usually marketing his films - all on an absolute shoestring. He's been doing it since 1973 when the landmark first feature Speaking Directly was released. Sure Fire is his eleventh feature to date, shot before and completed right after All the Vermeers in New York (Also showing in this year's Festival) and he promises another for next year!

Sure Fire is most reminiscent of Jost's best known feature, Last Chants for A Slow Dance (1977), not the least being the presence of the charismatic Tom Blair from that earlier film as Wes, the central character. From its intriguing opening, with Jost's ever graceful camera intruding into a conversation between the loathsome Wes and his friend Larry, we are drawn into the small town intrigues of Circleville, Utah. Wes sees the depressed small towns of the area as a potential goldmine in vacation and retirement homes for rich Californians, and is hellbent on getting the inside running, whatever the cost. Not surprisingly Wes' aggressive business manner is only amplified at home, where he has a somewhat strained relationship with his wife and two teenage children .

Working only with the sketchiest of plot tines, Jost feeds off the enviroment of the Southern Utah locations, a remote, deeply conservative community with strong Mormon links. Using his customary semi-improvisatory style, the result is an unsettling drama with the darkest of comic touches. The film is dedicated to his father - as expressive an act of filial loathing as I can imagine - and Jost admits that it's been a self-therapeutic exercise.

This film is punctuated by eerie quotes from Mormon holy texts which amplify the narrative in this rural tale of the deleterious effects of patriarchy. Like Twin Peaks minus the campy melodrama - Jost is shooting for the rotten soul of the American psyche - his aim is true. (T.B.)

See also...


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