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Sam Shepard's Silent Tongue.
on 16 January 2014
There are plenty of reviews here which could sway readers into believing this is a terrible film. There is no point arguing about viewers specific personal preferences in any type or genre of cinema, only to say that Sam Shepard is a great American playwright, even before he was a well known actor, and in this film, it appears to me that he was greatly moved when he worked with Terrence Malick on DAYS OF HEAVEN back in the 1970's.
Now this is in no way a comparison between this film and any of the great films of Malick, but certainly visually and the way it presents a far from stereotyped vision of the American west, it must be said that this film is wonderful. Shepard has transferred his theatrical background into a travelling carnival, and this is the centre of everything that evolves into this films story. The story? Yes there is a story, but not a conventional one. This film is about grieving, and the madness of grieving and not be able to let go. It is also about revenge and the effect of loss not only on those who have lost someone, but those who inevitably will loose someone because of their actions. And yes, even I, who loves this film agrees with the criticism that Alan Bates' speech is slurred, but after all he is playing a drunken irish snake oil salesman, and it is his form of drunken guilt filled madness that makes his character so unlikeable. Both Richard Harris and the late River Phoenix are brilliant together as father and son. It is Harris' journey into his sons madness that makes this film so emotional. Jeri Arrendondo as the sister of Phoenix's deceased wife deserves special mention also as she is the thread that drives all the other characters actions. Tantoo Cardinal appears all to briefly, especially considering she plays the title character, and the most obvious bow to theatre is the dead wife/ghost played by Sheila Tousey.
In the end, like Malicks films, people are just a small part of a landscape, as perfectly presented by a small character credited as the 'the lone man( with wheelbarrow') that appears only twice but at important times during the story.
And so finally for this review of such a fine film on DVD I must make the most important point. Correct aspect ratio. For the first time Silent Tongue is presented in the correct widescreen ratio of 2.35:1. In a film about torment figures lost in a landscape this is the most important thing about this DVD you really need to know. Everything else is just personal emotion based interpretations.