The Official U.S. Entry in the competition section of the 1978 Taormina “Festival of Nations,” Jon Jost's most recent independent feature, Chameleon received very favorable reviews at two other festivals: Edinburgh and Deauville. Derek Malcolm writing for the Manchester Guardian (8/1/78) expressed strong disappointment that Chameleon had not figured prominently in the prize list at Edinburgh, considering it of “outstanding interest....
“It owes much, in a purely formal sense, to structuralism. But it is for once not weakened by any lack of emotion. It is also a political film which has a determined sense of humour, and a highly personal statement that is seldom self-indulgently manipulated... the quality of its imagination, both physically and otherwise, is such that it holds you in its grip like a vice...”
Nigel Andrews in the London Financial Times (8/2/78) wrote that Chameleon deserved a widespread success “although its more experimental form may daunt potential distributors. The film cost a mere $35,000 to make and shows a courageous disregard for movie orthodoxy. At the same time it has a visceral immediacy lacking in nearly all its Competition rivals. Jost's day in the life of a mean Los Angeles hustler (drug pusher and art dealer played by Bob Glaudini) is a cautionary tale about the self-destructiveness of American opportunism. The main character - hero or villain, according to taste - moves reptile-like through a land of easy-prey gullibility, sucking dry his victims and his own humanity alike. The film is packed with bold visual metaphors - when a gun is fired, the whole screen explodes into white; when the hustler changes his ‘act' for different clients, the screen, chameleon-like, changes its colours - and it is a nervy, intelligent, exciting advance on Jost's last film, Angel City.”