Bell Diamond | Chicago Reader

Bell Diamond

The strengths of maverick independent Jon Jost's seventh feature—charting the marital breakup of a Vietnam veteran (Marshall Gaddis) and his frustrated wife (Sarah Wyss) in Butte, Montana—are antithetical to what one would expect from a Hollywood feature on the same subject. Shot on a $25,000 budget, with a story developed by the filmmaker and cast and completely improvised dialogue, the film deals with characters who are neither articulate nor particularly attractive, but pays them the kind of respect and attention that they wouldn't normally receive. Jost's feeling for landscapes and domestic interiors remains fresh and unpredictable, and his mise en scene comprises a string of perpetual discoveries. Because Jost eschews the kind of dramatic developments and climaxes that commercial films have taught us to expect, the impact of the film's original form of realism arrives only gradually, but once it registers, it becomes indelible. The title, incidentally, refers to the abandoned copper mine in Butte where a significant portion of the action is set.

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