Silver Tongues

Silver Tongues

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"I am an actor playing a part," says Gerry (Lee Tergesen).

Gerry and his partner Joan (Enid Graham) love acting. They love it so much that they do it all the time. Driving across America, they stop in apparently random places and take on roles designed to place strangers in challenging moral positions. Sometimes their actions seem like spite, sometimes like an amoral game. On other occasions they provide valuable education, and in at least one instance the target seems to be having fun playing along. "You can't bullshit a bullshitter" says Gerry proudly, but it's not clear this is true.

Like the colder, crueller work of Michael Haneke, this narrative device is always in danger of becoming stale. There's plenty of cleverness but then it's easy to seem witty when you're controlling the set-up. What's needed is an emotional hook and this comes in the form of the relationship between Gerry and Joan themselves. Is Joan really playing these games because she wants to, or is she being abused? Their sexual encounters are aggressive and the degree to which she is consenting is difficult to gauge. Increasingly, Gerry and Joan place one another in jeopardy with the lines they deliver, complicating one another's roles, so we are constantly wondering how far this might go. There also seems to be a very real possibility that one may kill the other. When everyone who meets them meets a character rather than the real thing (if there is a real thing), they have no social protection at all.

Silver Tongues' serial morality plays are stark and artificial; they might as well be acted out on an empty sound stage, Dogville style. The acting style is intense but dry, often deliberately disengaging. What remains is a series of puzzles and challenges to the viewer. The film is fascinating throughout but often difficult to watch. It requires a lot of effort on the viewer's part. As such, it won't be of interest to everyone, but it seems destined to acquire a cult following.

Reviewed on: 03 Feb 2012
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A couple travel across country taking on different roles and presenting challenges to strangers.
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