Last Chants for a Slow Dance Film Details
Overview: A man who is dissatisfied with his family life leaves home for weeks at a time, drifting from town to town.
Review: I first came across this movie after seeing it in the 1001 movies you must see before you die book. I later met Jon Jost in Houston and I thought that he was a very kind and friendly man. Since then, I have been steadily acquiring more and more of his work. Thus far, I have seen 5 of his movies. They are: FRAME UP, THE BED YOU SLEEP IN, LAST CHANTS FOR A SLOW DANCE, SURE FIRE, and ALL THE VERMEERS IN NEW YORK. Of those five, LAST CHANTS, the title in question, has been my least favorite. Firstly, there are some good things about this movie. Heck, there are some fantastic things about this movie. For one, the soundtrack, written and sung by Jost himself, is truly sublime. If anything I recommend you watch this movie just for the great music; it includes some of the best country songs ever written. Then, there is some interesting photography. As usual Jost’s long takes are a marvel to see, particularly a scene in which Tom Bates and his girlfriend have sex and we hear the TV in the other room. Jost, from the very start of his career, has always had a keen sense of framing and visual juxtaposition. Then there’s a great scene at a bar, in which Jost utilizes very little lighting and it feels very dark and loud. The camera lingers on many images for a longer time than you would imagine, forcing you to think and contemplate on something more than you would expect with a Hollywood big-budgeter. Finally, Tom Blair is in this movie. He’s one of the best actors I’ve ever seen. His performance in THE BED YOU SLEEP IN is truly second to none- he acts with a true sense of built up anger, intensity, and boiling aggression. Watching Blair act is something to marvel at. But I didn’t quite like this movie. It’s not that it’s a bad movie, it’s just that it feels unexperienced. I’m not calling it amateur by any measure, I only mean that Jost still had a long way to go in his career. The photography, when compared to other more typical works, is great- but when you think about the technical aspects in regard to the rest of Jost’s career, it isn’t all that interesting. The lo-fi aesthetic, poor audio, and general all-around 70’s kitsch is nothing compared to Jost’s later works. In other movies like THE BED YOU SLEEP IN, Jost captured beautiful pastoral landscapes, lush scenery, and just some of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen. In LAST CHANTS, he captures a dead rabbit getting cut up. Then, even Tom Blair isn’t on his highest form here. Sure he is great, but there’s something about the high-pitched giggling and monologues that feel too scripted that I can’t buy. (I know this film, and all of Jost’s films for that matter, weren’t shot with a script.) But still some of the actors don’t feel genuine. Examples are the opening scene in the car and when Tom Bates goes back to his see his wife. This is entirely subjective, but I didn’t 100 percent “buy into” these scenes. I bought into them 90 percent, but there’s still that 10 percent that irks me. And, finally, I have one more complaint. The plot didn’t all add up. Now I know that this is a highly unconventional film, one that isn’t heavy on plot or story, but instead character and atmosphere driven. But I don’t understand a few details. SPOILER: why did Tom Bates kill that man in the end? Wouldn’t it have made more sense if Tom Bates had killed a woman? I mean, there was a huge thread about the way that he viewed females. It would have made more sense. END SPOILER: Some things like that just didn’t quite make sense to me. THE BED YOU SLEEP IN and FRAME UP where very enigmatic films that forced you to think a lot, but with LAST CHANTS FOR A SLOW DANCE I am just left not quite seeing the point of it. I took away powerful messages from THE BED YOU SLEEP IN and FRAME UP, etc.- but not quite with LAST CHANTS FOR A SLOW DANCE. It simply didn’t come together for me. All I can really say is that Jon Jost is a damn good filmmaker. One of the best, actually. But when he made LAST CHANTS, he wasn’t there yet. It would only be a few years after LAST CHANTS that he would start churning out masterpieces one by one. But to be honest, you could skip this one. Go on to THE BED YOU SLEEP IN or FRAME-UP to see what kind of genius visionary Jost would become.
Duration: 90 min
Also known as: Last Chants for a Slow Dance