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|Index||21 reviews in total|
River Phoenix was a part of our 2003 All Soul's remembrances, and I'm
shocked to find that a decade after his death, he is practically forgotten.
Video clerks stared blankly at the mention of his name. (National video
store clerks!! Two different chains!) I only located a few of his ensemble
films at the major video rental outlets. "Silent Tongue" was among the
meager offerings at a grocery store. Others I can't find at
If "The Thing Called Love" is your only experience of the "adult" River Phoenix, you might not recognize him in "Silent Tongue". He hardly looks the same. This is the film which finally gave us "River Phoenix; the man", and in it, he plays Richard Harris' addle pated son. Sadly his screen time was all too brief. Perhaps he knew his soul was about to be called home, for he finally broke through all the artifice and became the consummate actor we so often heard he was supposed to be, but seldom saw.
The film is compelling most often when River is on the screen. Gone is the boyish actions which hardly fit his far-seeing eyes. Gone is the dual self-importance and shyness which often felt false. Here we see a man truly possessed and lost; damned by his own makings. Burdened with something we can't quite understand. It rings of truth. Ugly and brutal, but truth nonetheless, as we were to learn that Halloween morning in 1993.
Richard Harris is also excellent as Prescott Roe. His love for his addled son is evident, and the character is both touching and pathetic in trying to protect him. Harris always managed to elevate his fellow actors by a rung or two, but there is nothing he could do to elevate those parts he did not appear in. I find it interesting that he twice played a father to a Phoenix boy son. Father to two wounded men, if only in the land of make-believe. There is a certain symmetry to it. I wonder how the real man thought about it.
The Mulroney part is unconvincing for the most part, but it is not the actor's fault. Sheila Tousey is interesting as the ghost and Jeri Arredondo is lovely to look at. I wish both ladies appeared in more films. The scene with Tantoo Cardinal is a waste of her talent and makes little sense to the whole. Since when did a rapist rear their own products to adulthood?
Watch the film to see River Phoenix as a man and to finally see his promise fulfilled. It would have been nice if the vehicle were a better one. Although it is flawed, it is worth the watch, if only to get a glimpse of what he would have brought to "Interview with a Vampire" and other roles. With the successes enjoyed by Keanu and Depp so much in evidence, it is hard not to be a little bit bitter, and bemoan the whys. Forgiveness is harder to come by, though the anger has started to dim. This film can go a long way to explain it all to those who are too young to remember who River Phoenix was.
Silent Tongue looks and feels like a great lost 60s spaghetti oater crossed with a Japanese ghost story. Richard Harris is excellent (and restrained!) as the father of River Phoenix, who is haunted by the less than ethereal remains of his late wife, a half breed purchased from traveling huckster Alan Bates (over-the-top but enjoyable!). Give playwright Sam Shepard his props for some outstanding direction: this man understands how to frame a shot better than 90% of the Hollywood hacks making big budget crapola. Strongly recommended.
Although it's rated as "western" and the story happens during "bang bang
times", "Silent Tongue" is much of a supernatural drama than anything else.
It was kind of sad watching it just a few days after Richard Harris' death. It's also sad seeing River Phoenix in such good phase of his career considering that now his is (unfortunately) dead. We will always miss Harris and Phoenix.
The film itself is not so great. The plot is interesting and I really like the cast, but the movie is a little slow. We always expect something explosive to happen, but nothing really does.
The symbolism is nice. There are quite a lot of them in the movie. It's just a matter of paying close attention and let your mind work on them.
My rate 6/10
This movie is great. Great actors (watch out for Tantoo Cardinal!), great script, photography and *great* score!! If you enjoy slow, atmospheric films like "Picnic at Hanging Rock", you will like this one, too! A soundtrack album and a DVD release would be really appreciated, not only by River Phoenix fans!
Sam Shepard, the writer/director of "Silent Tongue," is one of the big
in contemporary American theatre. So it comes as no surprise that his two
feature films (also, "Far North") have a distinctly theatrical tone.
audiences may not have a taste for his style, but Shepard's films richly
reward multiple viewings for the open-minded.
"Silent Tongue" is a ghost story which uncovers a disturbing sickness at the heart of the Old West. River Phoenix becomes mentally unhinged when his Native American bride dies in childbirth. This sends his father, Richard Harris, on a journey to try and find another woman for his son. Exhibiting tragically limited imagination, the father returns to the traveling circus where he traded horses for the first woman, and he attempt a second bargain for the woman's sister. In the end, the sister must confront the dead woman's ghost, and we learn the dark secret of their past.
Phoenix is eerily convincing as the mad Talbot Roe, and Richard Harris is uncharacteristic low-key as the world-weary Prescott Roe. Dermot Mulroney, unable to make his character's diction convincing, is perhaps the film's only casting error.
I find it rather odd that anybody who loves movies would find this movie slow or dull. The characters are wonderful. Complex characters, each contains both virtues and self serving vices; each at times you feel pity for what has happen to them, yet feel pity for what they have done. There is no end, for what the father has done in the name of his son can never have closure. Mixed with top notch acting, a gripping musical score, perfect sound and wonderful cinematography by under rated Jack Conroy this movie works as a feast for the not just the mind but the eyes and ears as well. Hardly a second passed by where I was not entranced by the spirt of this film. Slow to those fail to understand the each moment in time begins a anew, for each moment is this movie changes a character and in turns changes the story. Perhaps a few scenes went on a few seconds too long, and one can find faults here and there regarding all but the greatest works, but in this movie the faults are mainly hidden by the strengths and story which should leave you thinking about the human heart for some time to come.
I originally tracked down a copy of this film because it was River's
last movie. I'm also a Richard Harris fan.
Not surprisingly, I liked it. Great performances by Richard Harris (the father), Alan Bates (the medicine show owner), and of course River Phoenix. The film has a unique and eerie look and feel that's unlike any others I've seen.
River's role as the grieving young widower is interesting to watch. Especially since he plays a disoriented, hallucinating character which seems to mirror his real life at the time battling drug addiction and other demons. He even looks high during some scenes (Of course he was a great actor).
Granted this movie is not for everyone. The friends & family I've shown it to liked it. I recommend it to any River Phoenix fan and to anyone who enjoys the escape to a different time and place that a good movie like this provides.
Well, I agree this movie works like those very obscured movies from Europe that leaves you with more questions than answers. But that's the appeal of it. I mean, it's very strange, but you have to understand that the story revolves within a surreal context that the creators want to transmit (just to mention, a talking corpse that you could interpret that works like the conscience of all involved). If you let yourself be immersed in that context, you'll enjoy this movie. It goes beyond that just a `Western' (don't be mislead but such a qualification). Many of the weird images that the movie shows will stick with you, and that, for me, it's a plus for a movie. Please, don't ever see it if you're only in the mood to see clear-straight message movies. Any kind of mood you're in though, you can only appreciate the good job done by all the actors, specially by River Phoenix.like a reminder that he was posed for better things than some of the movies that he made. If you're a River Phoenix fan (or simply a good actor's fan) you won't help by being moved by such a convincing performance, and think of what could have been. I give the movie a 7, and that in my book means a good movie that worths a try. You must be the judge, which means, you must see it.
I live in Roswell & I supplied MANY props for the movie, animal bones. I was known as the Bone Lady. We all hung at the Roswell Inn, River in the bar with straws hanging out of his nose, Richard Harris coming into the lobby in an English night shirt ( scrooge type ), Sam Shepard being rude while fondling a blonde .. not Jessica Lange. Most on the film were wonderful. John "Scully" Sullivan, artistic director (Lonesome Dove), the little actors, they all came to my house for a homemade meal. Richard Harris had a heart attack while filming here also! Was very hot out there for them. My "bones" ended up as the Buffalo Graveyard AND the burial tree. Have the coyote skull Richard signed for me. R.I.P.
To call this quirky, brooding film a western is a failure of imagination since it is nothing less than a classical tragedy, a sort of Hamlet set in the American west circa 1875. "Silent Tongue" is a Sam Sheppard film with a stout cast and ambitious themes. It is helped toward that end by the venerable talents of Alan Bates as a drunken Irish thespian and snake oil salesman (what a great archetype) along with Richard Harris as the desperate father of a young man lost in madness from grieving the death of his Indian wife. It does not hurt that the screenplay's characters sometimes speak with the cadence and tone of formal 17th Century English mixed with a touch of cowboy colloquy. It helps even more that there are murderous ghosts and allusions to suicide. After about 30 minutes of trying to get a peg to hang my movie genre hat on, I was left with a question. "WTF is going on here?" That is why eventually I gave up and accepted it for what it was--a Shakespearian western. Aside from that, its a slow stroll with lots of dramatic flourishes and an unexpected touch of Grand Guignol. Dermott Mulroney and River Phoenix are evident in support. Native American actress Sheila Tousey is absolutely terrific. Watch it but in the right mood.
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