Sure Fire

Director: Jon Jost

Institute History

  • 1991 Sundance Film Festival


In a remote area of southern Utah, Wes, an aggressive entrepreneur, engages in buying old homes and repairing them for resale. Wes believes the area, because of its proximity to Los Angeles and San Francisco, is a potential gold mine, perfect for vacationers and retirees. Unfortunately his demanding. unpredictable behavior alienates his family and friends, most notably his son Phillip.

By centering on Wes's relationship with his son and his best friend Larry, and his harmful relationship with his wife, Sure Fire is a modem day melodrama about the patriarchy, without the trappings of the now-popular small-town/intrigue/decadence/mystery plot. Dedicated to Jost's father, the film has a mythic rather than a sentimental flavor. Jost has used visible onscreen text, much like Godard, to supply a context for the nar-ative in many of his films. In Sure Fire he quotes the Mormon holy books not only to achieve this effect, but also to divide the melodrama into the traditional three acts.

Sure Fire is clearly another of Jost's "environmental" films, like Last Chants for a Slow Dance, Bell Diamond, and Rembrandt Laughing. Jost, who also photographs and edits all his films, truly allows the environment where he decides to shoot, in this case the sleepy town of Circleville and the spectacular vistas of southern Utah, to influence the story by incorporating local concerns and beliefs. The effect is maximized through improvised dialogue and the use of a combination of professional and nonprofessional local actors. Yet, at no time does any of this threaten the integrity of this extremely carefully crafted film. The cinematography is stunning, partly due to the location, hut mostly because of Jost's articulate and evocative framing. Sure Fire offers a fresh look at some very familiar country.

— Alberto Garcia

Screening Details

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