Friday, August 10, 2012

Silk (2007) [R] **+

Silk is a meditation on a classic theme - a naïve Westerner goes on a journey to the mysterious Orient, and is captivated by what he finds there. Hervé Joncour (Michael Pitt) lives in provincial France in the 1860s, where a local businessman named Baldabiou (Alfred Molina) has a plan to reopen the town's silk spinning mills. Since all the silkworm eggs available from his Egyptian sources are diseased, he's decided to smuggle healthy eggs out of Japan. He convinces Hervé's father, the town's mayor, to let his newly-married son make the hazardous journey. Leaving his lovely young bride Hélène (Keira Knightley), Hervé makes his way across Europe and Asia to Japan, buys the silkworm eggs and returns to France.

While in Japan, however, Hervé is captivated by the concubine (Sei Ashina) of his Japanese host Hara Jubei (Kôji Yakusho). Hervé is obsessed with the girl, and makes a second journey, during which she seduces him. Although silkworm eggs have become readily available from other sources, Hara Jubei's devious plan has worked, and the besotted Hervé makes a third journey to Japan. He nearly loses his life during an armed rebellion and returns to France empty-handed. Over the course of his three journeys, Hervé grows more and more distant from Hélène, and she suspects that she has lost him to another woman.

This is a story without a happy ending; worse, it moves at a glacial pace. With the exception of Molina, the performances are wooden; there is little chemistry between Pitt and Knightley, and the love affair between Pitt and Ashina is constrained by its clandestine nature, and by the language barrier. However, the cinematography is beautiful and the musical score is lush and haunting. If you enjoyed similarly-themed films like Kiss the Sky, The Sleeping Dictionary and Lost in Translation, and you enjoyed director Francois Girard's last film, The Red Violin, you might enjoy Silk

Labels: cross-cultural, drama, romance
Internet Movie Database     
Metacritic 39/100     
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=38, viewers=54)

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