Mad with grief after the death of his Kiowa wife, Talbot awaits death under a tree with her body beside him. She begins to haunt him because he won't burn her. His father, who bought him the wife, thinks her sister might reason with him.
Dealing with nuclear testing and its long-lasting deadly effects, the story portrays Boy, a young widower living in the desert on a nuclear testing site. Living as a hermit, he waits for ... See full summary »
It's 1873, Indian Territory. Talbot Roe is going mad with grief over losing his Indian wife, Awbonnie. In an effort to save him, his father, Prescott Roe, seeks to purchase the dead wife's sister, Velada, from the same travelling carnival he acquired Awbonnie. The girls' father, carnival master Eamon McCree, is willing to do business, but her stepbrother, Reeves, protests, putting an end to the negotiation. Desperate, Prescott kidnaps Velada and promises her the means to be rid of her father in return for comforting Talbot out of his obsession. In Talbot's madness, he guards his wife's corpse, preventing her from passing to the beyond. As a result, Awbonnie's ghost begins haunting and cursing everyone involved in the transaction of selling her as a wife. Meanwhile, Reeves and Eamon search the prairie for Velada. Drunken Eamon several times wants to turn back and leave his daughter to her own devices, but Reeves refuses. At the site of a hunting party of Indians, Eamon panics and loses...Written by
Underwhelming (and silly) Western, though Phoenix is terrific
This much maligned and very strange Western is ambitious and interesting in places, but also pretentious, convoluted, silly and frequently boring. Shepard's direction is reasonable, and the main theme effective, but the ghost scenes are accompanied by a poor, pounding score and increasingly daft camera-work. The acting is similarly inconsistent: Mulroney is dire in a well-written minor role, and Bates overacts dreadfully, but Harris is fairly good and Phoenix unforgettable (if underused) in his final role. His first scene is particularly potent and moving. Indeed, whenever River is on screen the movie comes to life: his eccentric turn partly compensating for the long periods of poorly scripted shouting.
Despite some striking imagery, unusual subject matter and unwanted status as River's swansong, the film's expected cult status hasn't materialised, perhaps because it is plot less and pointless. Filmed for French TV in 1992, but not released until 1994, it grossed just $61,274 in the US. For a better, similarly offbeat modern take on the Western, try Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man. Silent Tongue is for Phoenix completists like myself only.
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