Done in a series of radically different sections which collide with each other in a manner intended to provoke thinking, Plain Talk, which was made by an American and intended for American viewers, was indeed broadcast in Britain, but somewhat predictably, not in the USA.
Filmed in the wake of Reagan’s 525 to 13 electoral trouncing of Mondale (and Dubya thinks he has a “mandate”), Plain Talk is a critical portrait of an America in the final throes of its decades-long ideological battle with communism. Rather than attempt to characterize a film that I haven’t yet seen, I’ll just direct you to Jost’s personal reflections, which stands as a darn good essay on its own terms. I’m particularly intrigued by the final paragraph. It shouldn’t take too great a leap for us to apply the same words to our current situation:
Plain Talk and Common Sense (uncommon senses) attempted to unmask this charade, surely a thankless task, drawing on the lore and philosophy of America’s past. It asks questions, poses riddles, and prods the viewer to ponder along with the filmmaker on the meaning of it all. And, in typical American fashion, at end it plops the matter directly in the individual’s lap, following in the manner of Walt Thoreau: in the recurring parlance of the times, “You are what you eat,” or what you do. America is, in sum, what Americans do, and let be done in their name.
One other thing. I asked a friend what he thought of Jost, and he offered the following:
If nothing else, Jon Jost definitely has a feel for the pulse of red America, and I don’t mean that in a condescending way, but more like a comfortability (and almost exclusive familiarity) for “sameness” (in people, in everyday routines) and the kind of intrinsic propensity for self-reliance that really doesn’t tolerate a lot of intrusion of authority into their daily lives. His feature films can be glacially paced, but from what I’ve seen, there is that shock of violence that ripples through that deceptive insularity that really propels the narrative forward. Plain Talk and Common Sense has a lot to say about why Americans from different parts of the country (and sometimes even in the same state) don’t always understand each other, much less the rest of the world (and because of this, seem prey to blanket characterizations of what is good and evil). —Jon Jost
Born in Chicago on May 16, 1943, of a military family, Jon Jost grew up in Georgia, Kansas, Japan, Italy, Germany and Virginia. Expelled from college in 1962, he began making 16mm films in January, 1963. He is self-taught. He has made some 20+ shorts and 14 feature length films on celluloid, 16 and 35mm, all of which he has conceived, written, photographed, directed and edited; most of these he also produced. Since 1996 he has worked only in Digital Video (DV), completing 18 full-length works and many shorts, as well as one large-scale 7 screen installation work, TRINITY, presented at the ZKM, Karlsruhe Germany, in this medium as of 2009.
After 10 years of making short works, Jost made his first feature-length film in 1974, and since devoted himself to the making of a wide-ranging series of films, largely focused on specifically American topics, in forms ranging from essays (Speaking Directly, Stagefright, Plain Talk & Common Sense), to fictions (Last Chants for a Slow Dance;… read more