Jon Jost, Independent Film-maker – Conclusion and Filmography

Jon Jost, independent film-maker. The early films

11. Conclusion and filmography

‘Slow Moves’ is an anti-love story love story, ‘Stagefright’ is an anti-theatre theatrical piece, ‘Chameleon’ is an anti-art art-movie, ‘Angel City’ is an anti-detective story detective story, and ‘Speaking Directly’ is an anti-feature-film feature-film. It may appear that Jost, and he has been accused of this, is an anti-film film-maker. Jean Luc Godard has come to Jost’s defence on this point, saying: “He is not against the movies, he makes them move,” the point being that it is only the conventions Jost is attacking, not cinema itself, his aim being not to destroy, but to re-invent.

Looking at Jost’s first twenty years of work then, we can see a development of themes and methods which is remarkable for its consistency, and for its progress from short ‘single idea’ films to complex multi-layered narratives. He is always exploring the medium and extending its potential for communication.

His films, though always rewarding, are not always pleasant to watch, and, as he has said himself, if they were so they would have failed in their purpose. Jost is concerned that we live in a society riddled with conflict, alienation, loss of meaning, and the debasement of values, and he sees that our reluctance to face these problems is half the reason for their existence. His films are disturbing because they are an attempt to face these things which we, to our detriment, prefer not to think about.

Perhaps what most distinguishes Jost’s work from that of commercial directors is his uncompromising respect for both the medium and the audience; he never abuses either, and his comment, (from ‘Susannah’s Film’), defines the point at which the viewing, and the criticism of his films must start and finish: ‘Film is like a mirror. If an ape looks in an apostle cannot look out’.

* All quotes, from the films and the interview, are approximations taken from notes made immediately after seeing the films.

Jon Jost, early filmography (up to 1983)


Portrait 1963

City 1964

Leah 1967

Traps 1967

13 Fragments and 3 Narratives From Life 1968

Primaries 1968-70

A Turning Point in Lunatic China II 1968-70

l, 2, 3, Four 1968-70

Susannah’s Film 1969

Canyon 1970

Flower 1970

Fall Creek 1970

A Man is More Than the Sum of His Parts/A Woman is . . . 1971

Beauty Sells Best 1976

X2: 2 Dances by Nancy Karp 1980

Godard 1980


Speaking Directly 1973-75

Angel City 1976

Last Chants For a Slow Dance 1977

Chameleon 1978

Stagefright 1980

Slow Moves 1983


Jon Jost GB 1982. Directed by Keith Griffiths and Jon Jost. Made for Channel 4’s ‘Late Hour’.

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