When last we saw Jon Jost — and a good long while ago it was — he was giving the middle finger to the U.S.A. and leaving San Francisco for Rome. Twenty years later, the peripatetic and outspoken independent filmmaker circles back our way with a hit-and-run preview screening of his latest feature. Shot last fall in Montana, the new film marks a return to the rural settings and bruising emotional terrain of Jost’s masterpieces Sure Fire (1990) and The Bed You Sleep In (1993). Those quietly shattering dramas of destructive family values were slow-burning fires that built, patiently yet inexorably, toward tragedy. Jost’s best work functions as both an oddly empathetic examination of patriarchal pigheadedness and a lacerating parable of wrong-headed American “exceptionalism.” (A gun or two usually finds its way into the narrative, although no apple pie.) As one might hope when confronted with an unreconstructed bridge burner approaching his 70th birthday, Jost remains irascible to the core. His appearance tonight, courtesy of San Francisco Cinematheque, may have a bit of a prophet’s vibe — political, intelligent, defiant, and unpredictable.
Fri., Feb. 8, 7:30 p.m., 2013