Silk François Girard

Silk François Girard
Silk is a historic romance that’s beautifully filmed but ultimately empty. Based on Alessandro Baricco’s novel, this costume drama follows Hervé Joncour (Michael Pitt), a 19th century French silkworm smuggler who narrates the film in a confusing contemporary American accent. He looks back on a happy marriage with beautiful wife Helénè (Keira Knightley, in yet another romantic lead), who alas cannot bear children. Joncour also recalls meeting the lovely concubine (Sei Ashina) of a Japanese warlord (Kôji Yakusho, the father in Babel) on his trip to snowy Japan. The concubine says nothing but something in her gaze entrances Joncour. Unfortunately, the audience never feels this same magical connection and so doesn’t understand when Joncour risks his life, marriage and the fortunes of his prospering company to return to wartime Japan to claim this woman. Between his voyages the movie advances at a glacial pace, smothered by Pitt’s anaemic narration, which adds little to the overall drama or tone. Director Girard delivered the 1998 hit The Red Violin, which deftly wove together several international stories about a prized instrument. With Silk, he can barely tell one story, and it is thin and inconsequential. Furthermore, the film perpetuates the tired cliché of an "exotic” and passive Asian woman falling head-over-heels for a white man. For a romance, there is surprisingly little emotion on screen. Supporting players Yakusho and Alfred Molina (as Baldabiou, Joncour’s sensible boss) deliver fine performances but are not enough to save this film. The DVD adds brief interviews with Girard and Knightley, who in the fashion of a typical press kit both hype and explain the movie. (Alliance)