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It is about time I watched another Jon Jost film. Speaking Directly is, like all of them, very creative. He takes quite an honest look at himself and some of the people in his everyday life. He points out contradictions in his personal life and asks others to do the same. It’s an environment I feel like I would like to be a part of. There is not a lot of doublespeak or mincing of words. Emotions and feelings are out in the open. Of course, as is pointed out, this is the case only during the course of filming. Life can never be this open and straightforward, but I loved watching this small segment of Jost’s life shown in such a manner.
Similarly, the world in which Jost lives is discussed in a straightforward fashion. He discusses an America that has been assigned to him as his country, one that an American citizen is supposed to think of as theirs. This notion, as well as many other concepts, is identified as an abstraction. On an average day, one does not think of how their nation has become what it currently is. Who has died for it, who has been displaced. It does not make sense for the average American to think of their role in the world. It would be ridiculous for them to question whether of how they may bear some responsibility for the inconvenience, abuse, or possibly even suffering of an ‘other’ off in some distant unknown place. Such matters are usually completely absent from everyday thought, sometimes due to apathy, blindness or unwillingness to confront them, or are left cloaked or purposely skewed by the talking heads on television and in the media generally. It is easy to say the film reflects this absence of thought, because the filmmaker, featured throughout, says so directly.
I’ve also been reading Jon Jost’s blog and reflections on the film, so I’m sure some of that has mixed in with my memories of the film. Here are some interesting things I read in his reflections (from his website http://www.jon-jost.com/).
“Along with its mixture of honest and direct introspection and political analysis – something certainly in its own time a rarity and perhaps even more so today – Speaking Directly retains many instances of pure cinematic power which are to my eye and experience as vital today as they were 30 years ago.”
This cinematic power was certainly real to me as I viewed the film. Hearing Jost discuss the complexities of his relationships and personal life definitely allowed me to take a deeper look at myself. Though I wrote that I sometimes desire the type of relationship Jost seemed to share with his friends (everyone is allowed to speak their mind, no-nonsense style), I’m not sure if I would be able to last long in such an environment. It is something I would be interested in experimenting with if I were to meet the right people. Either way, it’s something I thought about while watching Speaking Directly. Hearing from others how they see you, which might obviously shatter the image one holds of oneself, is an opportunity for growth. I began to wonder about my relationship with others and how they would describe me if given total freedom to do so. I think that is one example of the cinematic power Jost refers to in his writing about the film.
“But, far more importantly, perhaps it serves as an object lesson in the compelling force of tackling serious social-political-personal concerns with the gravity which they deserve.”
I agree entirely with his opinion that such concerns should be addressed with sincerity and honesty. The way Speaking Directly approaches this is by letting the viewer listen to the filmmaker spill his guts on various topics, as well as admit to feelings that may not be easily understood, such as not feeling like a genuine participant or even citizen–with its many definitions–in America. While watching, I was reminded of the abstract concept of being American, and therefore “unique” or “exceptional” which we are implicitly told to embrace since the time of our birth. I love this direct approach because I think it genuinely would allow one to confront all three of the concerns Jost notes in his reflections.