Synopsis by Tom Vick
Jon Jost's debut film is an autobiographical documentary made while he was living in self-imposed poverty in a one-room cabin in Montana without running water or electricity, and edited by hand on a set of rewinds. It covers subjects ranging from Jost's daily life, political convictions, and personal relationships, to the war in Vietnam and the process of filmmaking itself. In its emphasis on self-reliance, radical politics, and simple living, it resembles a Henry David Thoreau essay committed to film (Jost makes the comparison himself in his narration). Speaking Directly is a particularly apt title, because what comes across most strongly in the film is Jost's brutal frankness about himself and others. Early on he refers to his own father as a war criminal, and in several interviews with friends, neighbors, and even his live-in lover and her child, he creates uncomfortable moments by describing his mixed feelings about them with a bluntness that borders on cruelty.