For more than 50 years, Jon Jost (who was born in Chicago and began his filmmaking career here) has remained one of the most resolutely independent filmmakers working in the U.S. His provocative, powerful, lyrical, and idiosyncratic shorts and features are far removed from the Hollywood definition of "independent." Jost works with almost no budget, handles most of the production roles himself, is little concerned with his films' marketability, and distributes his work on his own. While this independence has limited his visibility, it has also allowed him to stay true to his own vision, not having to make the kinds of compromises necessary for access to the film industry system.
Blue Strait combines Jost's interest in elliptical, open approaches to storytelling with his decades-long practice of capturing lyrical, expressive, and abstracted representations of the world around. The film opens new ground for Jost with its depiction of the relationship of a gay couple; Jost had been challenged years ago by a gay friend of his to make a film with gay protagonists. But here, as in many of his films, the story is of secondary importance; Jost's aim is to create a mood, a feeling, rather than tell yet another film story. As Jost says Blue Strait is a "pure tone-poem narrative in which a middle-aged gay couple break up. In effect there is no 'story,' rather a kind of visual music which envelopes this incident."
"Long ago my friend Marcus Hu, of Strand Releasing, bugged me about doing a 'gay film'–Strand sort of specializes in them. It sat on the back-burner of my brain for some decades, and then sometime after finishing the shooting of Coming to Terms I had the very vague thought begin to coalesce around the idea of something built around a middle-aged couple breaking up. I went to Port Angeles and the house of my good friend Steve Taylor (Coming Home, Over Here, Parable) and intuitively shot this film. I was clearly not interested in anything remotely like a conventional narrative film, but rather something else. Blue Strait offers no explanations, no background, and in the usual sense, no narrative. Rather it immerses the viewer in a tonal setting, a place, its vibes, and drops you in the midst of an acrid relationship teetering on collapse. The tension is not narrative or literary, but that generated by a visual gorgeousness which frames an ugly relationship. While adamantly non-narrative in its form, Blue Strait is quite accessible if one is game for visual and aural play, and willing to forget about 'the story' (though there is one) and surrender to what is a delicate tone-poem in time, vision and sound." (Jost)
Directed by Jon Jost
(2014, 85 min, Digital Projection)
Cast: Stephen Taylor, John Manno
Music: Harp by John Manno
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