|Index||8 reviews in total|
The Tonto Woman (2007) was directed by Daniel Barber, and is based on a
short story by Elmore Leonard. This is an extraordinary short film,
and, quite properly, was nominated for an Oscar.
Charlotte Asprey plays Sarah Isham--a beautiful woman in the 19th Century west who was kidnapped by Indians, and was horribly mutilated with tattoos (?scars) around her mouth. Her husband, who loved her, has spent 11 years trying to find her. Once he finds her, he's horrified by her appearance and by the fact that she is no longer his pure, virginal wife. Her husband has isolated Sarah in a cabin far from his ranch, where she's ogled by the ranch hands and visited by no one.
Francesco Quinn plays Ruben Vega, a Mexican-American cattle rustler who comes across Sarah's cabin, falls in love with her, and then has to decide what is the best way to help her.
The movie begins and ends in a small Catholic church, where the priest, a good enough man and sincere churchman, hears Vega's confession. Clearly, Vega, the thief, is the better Christian.
We saw this film in a theater. I think it will work on a small screen, but the emptiness of the dry countryside surrounding Sarah's cabin may not be as evident.
P.S. Pay close attention to the statue of the Virgin.
This film is more-than-perfect adaptation of Elmore Leonard, making
only a few small changes that nevertheless even improve on the literary
Ruben Vega comes across both tough and romantic, a too-well-traveled man whose best and perhaps only chance at love saves a strong, beautiful woman taken for granted by the ignorant men around her. And SHE in turn becomes his salvation. Even if--as may or may not be the case--he pays for this act with his life.
The free clips I've seen online hint at how powerful this film is, but its full effect can only be seen by viewing it in its entirety. Do that and it will become apparent it's about the most flawless short ever. No other in the Oscar hunt this year--or almost any other year--is in the same league.
Hints at violence here are not only apropos but subtle, while any nudity is even more touching and apropos; if these characters are hinted to "make love," they do justice to the term. A million "clean" films I've seen are infinitely dirtier in their soul.
A wandering saddle tramp comes upon a woman living in a remote section
of the prairie. The wife of a prominent landowner, she was kidnapped by
marauding Apaches and held prisoner for over a decade before being
rescued. Now adorned with visible reminders of her captivity her
husband has chosen to isolate her instead of bringing her back to her
rightful home. The saddle tramp befriends her and sets out to right
things at his own peril.
This atmospheric Western, an abbreviated Eastwood oater, has a real good look, is skillfully shot, has some fine compositions and is dramatically well paced. Where it weakens is in the pivotal meeting scene between husband, wife and drifter which doesn't live up to the dramatic pitch that it has been building. It does however maintain it's good look from start to finish.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While the story of "The Tonto Woman" certainly has its place in
Leonard's Old-West canon, it fails as a contemporary film to update the
rusty wayward-man-saved-by-a-virtuous-woman archetypal narrative.
It must be said that the film makes excellent use of shooting locations in the rocky Andalucian canyons to serve as a spare and rugged American West at the cusp of expansion, and that sense of solitude is adroitly transferred onto the title character, marooned as she supposedly is by her unapproachable husband, who lives in an often-gestured-at-but-never-seen big house in the distance. However, as we see in several opening scenes, this woman is much stronger and individualistic than the strong-arming plot has allowed her to be. That is, when the Mojave plan to tattoo her face, she tells them to make it elaborate, not some half-ass dribble; when her husband's henchmen come to scare off her suitor, she gets a gun and drives them off.
The plot, though, continues to cast her as the product of some irrevocable sorrow, which can only be healed by a man who affords her the dignity she deserves. But there's the rub: she is well aware of her dignity already. Once we witness this woman's resolve, shouldn't we question why this man needs to show up? Sure, it's a romance, set during a time when women were very often subjugated, but haven't we heard that story a hundred times, and don't we need new ones? This one rapidly becomes a typical masculine fairy tale: The tough cattle rustler buys her a fancy cleavage-revealing dress; she swims and steps from the lake naked before him while he remains fully clothed, and embraces her as if she's weak; in an emotional show-down, he makes her husband see her as worthy. Us men are so strong and resolute! Always! ...But we're not evocative characters. Films like this forget that audiences wish to be surprised by characters that display the complexity of behavior that pushes them beyond character, toward the humane. I can't help but as "what if..." What if the Vega's cattle rustling character was made vulnerable by his love for this woman, so much that HE was the one that went swimming naked while she remained clothed? What if Tonto Woman wasn't so virtuous, if she was a little duplicitous? Of course, then we wouldn't have the mythic story we have, but we might have something that goes beyond merely affirming what we want to believe about people, something that asks us to see human behavior in its true complexity.
I also watched this film along with the other Oscar nominated shorts. I
was really excited to see that the screenplay was from an Elmore
Leonard story. I have not read much of his western books, but if this
was a glimpse into that world I will definitely reading some of those
The short was a tad bit long for a "short film". Sometimes shorts are so long you feel like you got cheated out a a full length feature. Other times shorts are so brief that you feel cheated out of having some closure with the story. I think this film road the line between too long and just right. There are moments that I really did want some more back story.
Overall I would say this is my second favorite of the Oscar shorts.
By the way I guess some readers/viewers should know that shorts are not usually MPAA rated so you should always assume you might see something "r-rated". In this movie you do see a top half full frontal of a woman. So just breasts. That should not be a big deal, but I guess it is for some. I will say that is is tastefully done and not gratuitous.
If you get a chance definitely catch this short.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I got a chance to see all of the Oscar shorts this weekend and this was
by far, not only the worst of the bunch, but also one of the worst
Oscar nominated films I can ever remember seeing.
The characters were all mysteries. Beginning with the main character who is introduced through a confession in the opening sequence. We understand that this guy is an ultimate bad***. He thieves, he has "taken lives", and been with 300...no 200 women, (because of his job). Why is any of this necessary to know? The short answer is it's not.
Secondly, the Tonto Woman, who is fond of running around naked, purposefully objectifying herself for the chance to run into a true gentleman who will cover her with a blanket someday. The change that occurs within this character is entirely unmotivated and too quick. The first time we see her, she is abrasive and jaded to the world, and her accent and demeanor represent this outlook. It takes one present from out bad*** gunslinger, and suddenly she's got a heart of gold, as it turns out she was just misunderstood.
Essentially, everything happens to quickly in this film. The changes are all so radical that there is no way we can believe they would occur within the span of time that the film includes. Beyond that, the tone of the film changes from a sprawling Western, to a cutesy romantic comedy when the Tonto Woman's husband enters the mix. And why exactly was everything okay at the end of the film? Because he looked at her? Had he never looked at her before? I'm confused. And not because the film made me think but because it was flawed.
I will say that the cinematography was pretty rocking. And while I think the second nude scene was in poor taste (he might have covered her up, but only after he sat and watched her get undressed, poised like Burt Reynolds on a bear skin rug), the scene when she comes out of the water truly is beautiful. She's a very attractive woman and the scenery is gorgeous.
Indeed, the film is cinematic, but in the end it draws on way too many clichés,, and tries to force way too many plot points in the time allotted to be effective. I was incredibly underwhelmed.
The story of a "noble honorable rustler" boggles the mind. The lead
character begins by asking forgiveness for sins from a priest, and
we're led to believe he has noble qualities, because he isn't a gringo.
That pretty much says how the film goes.
In fact, it seems to have been written by a 4 year old, or at least someone who has never strayed outside a cubicle. The characters are all so flagrantly cliché, it would be classified as a comedy to most people.
I'm being overly generous in giving this a "3" because it isn't nearly as poor as most other short films recognized by critics, and the actors are good, with none of them portraying glamor. In fact, the heroine would be just as plain without the markings on her face.
The sole purpose of these critics who rave about garbage like this, and dismiss real art, is to bully people around with their prejudices.
I hope no one takes it seriously that an thief would be so noble. Films like this could cost naive viewers more than they can give.
Poorly written, but some decent visual scenery and good acting.
I saw this movie at a special showing by a local film society of all
the Oscar nominated Live Action Shorts about a week or so before the
Oscars were announced. Of the five nominees, THE TONTO WOMAN is by far
the weakest--with both me and my daughter finding the film a bit dull
and overly long. While it had come decent cinematics, the pacing was
very slow and the story just wasn't engaging compared to the other four
The film begins with a man in a confessional out in the Old West. Part way through his long litany of sins, the guy stumbles out of the confession booth--apparently bleeding and dying. Then the story does a flashback to let you know how the man got to be in such a state.
While the movie was reasonably competent and is watchable, it's not especially pleasant or rewarding. Also, parents be aware that there is quite a bit of nudity in the film--so think twice before letting your kids see this.
UPDATE--Apparently I am lousy at guessing Oscars, as MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS just won the award for 2008.
|External reviews||Plot keywords||Main details|
|Your user reviews||Your vote history|