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  • If Fate would have it, I would have the opportunity to go to Tokyo for this year's Japanese International Film Festival, and watched this as the closing film. Initially I had mixed this up with Atonement, also starring Keira Knightley in a period romance story, except that this one had shades of The Last Samurai thrown in, with the love triangle moments with the involvement of a Japanese girl.

    Based on the novel by Alessandro Baricco, Silk takes its name from the Silk trade, where a French village looks to having its economy hit, if not for Alfred Monlina's Baldabiou who ventures into opening a silk mill and employing the townsfolk. However, in need of untainted silkworm eggs, free from an epidemic striking Europe, he sends overseas one of his staff Herve Joncour (Michael Pitt), whom is indebted to him for arranging his marriage with Knightley's Helene, and off he goes on the arduous journey first to Africa, then to the land of the rising sun, now in the impending stage of internal strife.

    The journeys are probably the best bits in the movie, with lush landscapes filling the screen in all serenity of the turmoils that are yet to come. I thought director Francois Girard tried to ape Terence Mallick's direction, with lush natural beauty punctuated with voice over narration of the character's inner-most thoughts. We learn a lot of what's going on in Herve's mind, as he tells us the story of his being, and the conflict he faces when he gets tempted to committing adultery, never forgetting about his tryst overseas when back home he has a lovely wife to go home to.

    While the movie has that central conflict that provides the fuel to propel the movie forward, somehow it never gets utilized, having the story and characters dance around on the sidelines of the issue, never to take it head on. This adds to the frustration of watching the deliberations that they have, made worse as the movie chooses to unfold itself extremely slowly, taking too much of its own sweet time. Fans of Keira Knightley would have watched this movie solely to see her performance after the Pirates double bill, but sadly, even though she's given top billing, her screen time is limited, as the spotlight falls on Michael Pitt's Herve and we are told of this story through his eyes.

    What adds to the annoyance as well, is that the movie is sans English subtitles. Having it set in France but the characters speaking in English is understandable (after all, Pitt is American and Knightley is English), but having the Japanese speak in their native tongue, and not providing the subtitles, removes a layer that would have provided probably a deeper understanding of the movie. Yes, granted we are supposed to feel the pain of Herve in his inability to connect with the people and the one he loves, but I don't feel that this should be done at the expense of understanding, especially for non-Japanese speaking folks.

    However, despite its obvious flaws, the movie redeems itself with a powerful end, packing quite a punch especially when you think it's headed nowhere and probably into mediocrity. Suddenly you discover that things are again not always what they seem, and wonder just who the bigger fool is. But the bottomline, if there's a message to be taken away from this movie, is again never to give in to temptation, and truly treasure your loved ones. Tried and tested, clichéd but true.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Although the story involves several journeys half way across the globe, it is nowhere near an epic tale of broad sweep. While the action (actually bad choice of word) takes place in two places, the protagonist's home town in France and a village in Japan, the journey in between is handled with brevity, just something that needs to be covered but not dwelled on. What we have is a very intimate story of when happens to the protagonist in these two places, or, to make it even more intimate, what happened in the MIND of the protagonist. I'll come back to this.

    The plot is actually quite simple. A somewhat undistinguished young man in a small town in 19th century France (English is the proxy language for the movie) falls in love and marries an attractive young woman. At the same time, he becomes, quite unintentionally, a trader commissioned by a silk manufacturer to go to Japan to buy the best quality silk-worm eggs (to ensure that they will not be infected before hedging). Right away, you can see the dramatic elements – risks of financial disaster, political intrigues (in Japan), risks if personal safety. While all of these are used in the movie, they are not what the movie is about.

    The story, told entirely through voice over of the protagonist Herve, is about an intimate emotional inside his mind. (At the end, we find that there is an actual audience who is, however, quite inconsequential to the story). Except for a livelihood that takes him away for a couple of month each year, there seems nothing lacking in Herve's life. He has grown rich through the trade. His lovely wife Helene is understanding and loving. It is indeed a setback that they have not been able to have any children but they have learned to live with it. But then, the journeys to Japan has given rise to something deeply disturbing, an infatuation with a mysterious young woman that soon turns into an obsession, an obsession to such an extent that it begins to gnaw his soul even when he is back home.

    (Additional spoiler warning) Many people have expressed dissatisfaction with the movie's apparent failure to explain many things about this mysterious woman in Japan. But towards the end of the movie, it will gradually dawn on you that this movie have little to do with what happens in Japan, and a lot to do with what happens back home. The one twist close to the end (which can almost be described as a delightful surprise) makes it all too clear. What we are dealing with the whole time is what happens in Herve's mind, and there, the mysterious Japanese woman could very well be a figment of his imagination.

    The vote seems unanimous that Michael Pitt who plays Herves is the weakest link. He sleepwalks and murmurs through the movie as if his is playing the main character of Dicken's last, unfinished novel "The mystery of Edwin Drood" (someone who is in an opium hallucination half the time). I appreciate that he is trying to portrayed Herves as imagined by the author (of the book) and screenwriter. But he has not been successful.

    The rest of the cast, fortunately, is redeeming. Keira Knightley does not seem too impressive, until towards the end. Then, you begin to see why she was selected for the role Helene, who has more than meets the eyes. Alfred Molina adds more to the role of the trade manufacturer than it would suggest, as he always does with any role he plays. Koji Yakusho, probably the best known Japanese actor today to anyone who follows the Japanese cinema (not Hollywood Japanese), plays the nobleman who trades with Herves. A delightful surprise is seeing Miki Nakatani who played the young woman Hermes in Densha Otoko (Train man) (2005). In "Silk", she is the enchanting Madame Blanche who translates the Japanese letter for Herves.

    There are some fine cinematography in Silk, in both the snow-bound Japanese landscape and the hauntingly beautiful forest Herve's hometown.
  • I also can understand why a person may not like this movie. However, if you can truly appreciate the goal and the direction of the director's vision than you should like it. The scenery and music added depth and meaning to the story. I think there should have been Japanese subtitles so as to not lose the audience's attention and interest. I was left wanting more. I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I wanted the plot to be a bit more "spicy". But i can appreciate the director and writer's vision of the movie. This is a good movie to watch when you want to relax and mellow out. The ending was the best part of the movie. There was a bit of a twist which added meaning and understanding. Even though i wanted things to be a bit more spicy the end of the movie justified the lack of it.
  • This movie was very good. I know a lot of reviewers were bored and didn't like that there wasn't subtitles for the Japanese. Admittedly the issue with the subtitles would have made the movie easier to understand. In the middle of the movie there is some confusion about what exactly has transpired between Pitt and his Japanese contact and why the initial interlude between Pitt and the Japanese concubine occurs in the first place but these don't seem to be so dear to the plot that you can't remain in the dark and still get the point of the movie.

    The landscape is breathtaking, the acting was great by every member of the supporting cast. I like Michael Pitt, but it seems like he can only play one character and it's the throaty sensitive guy. I was surprised that Keira Knightley took such a minor role but the punch at the end gives her character quite a bit of intrigue. As always she is wonderful and I liked Alfred Molina as well.

    The cinematography was good and understated. The script was simple and it didn't seem like they wasted any words. Quite the opposite in fact.

    I understand why others didn't like it but I get the impression that this is due to a lack of patience on their part.

    Good movie. Try it out.
  • This is a beautiful film.

    The story stays very close to the book I had already read twice (around 10 years ago then 6 months ago). The adaptation is faithful to the author, and even if there's not much words, the intensity of the feelings is always present. The actors convey these feelings very well, with deep sensitivity and great sensuality (just watch when Hervé is in the Japanese wooden tub, and the girl pours water on his face and lips with her fingers). The settings and sceneries are overwhelming: there's so much beauty-like the snow covered trees in Japan, the Joncour garden, ... François Girard had already shown how a fantastic Director he is with his 2 previous films, and now with Silk! He has such a strong aesthetic sense, and a great way to direct actors...
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A trader from Japan arrives in a small English village in the mid-19th century. He is not particularly handsome or charismatic, he can't even speak English, but the town leader's vivacious, sultry wife, played by Keira Knightley, falls in love with the Japanese man and urges him to take her away. Why? Because any Japanese man who turns up has to be better than what the British male has to offer. The Japanese man is haunted by a glimpse he caught of Keira naked, slowly immersing herself in river water. Finally, he realises it is all an illusion, and that the woman he truly loves is his recently deceased Japanese wife. His wife then replaces Keira in his dreams of the river, but decently clothed...

    You don't buy it, do you? Then why are we expected to swallow it in reverse? This is a lusciously shot, lyrical, understated piece of orientalist claptrap. Michael Pitt takes insipid to new levels, and Sei Ashina has to put up with a credit as 'The Girl,' probably because they couldn't get away with calling her 'Asian Eye Candy.' Not surprisingly, Sei Ashina is a newcomer - no experienced Japanese actress worth her salt would have taken on such a demeaning role. Ashina will forever live down her involvement in this film, I fear.

    This should have been a breakout film for the wonderful Miki Nakatani, but she is lost in a stilted role. Koji Yakusho is as forceful as ever, and as such is mis-cast - why would any woman leave this guy, especially for a simpering Eurobrat? The reveal at the end shows, ironically, the film this should have been. The woman wronged, the woman whose love should define this film, is Hélène. The whole thing should have been re-written from her perspective. Hervé's infatuation with a pretty girl he saw on his travels should have been just that, a minor issue in a great love story. Focussing on Hervé's delusional obsession is regrettable. Implying that the Japanese woman had reciprocal feelings is feeble-minded.

    In sum, great actors in cinematic locations and a story with bags of potential wasted by mindless Eurocentrics.
  • This movie will not please everyone, in fact certain people will probably hate it.

    I loved it.

    I loved the quiet melodic atmosphere it created.

    I loved the narrative voice, which I normally hate.

    I loved the many visual wonders, every room it seemed was made to be something more than a mere setting, it was art.

    It drew me in, in made me want to visually experience every scene, it itself was a character in the story.

    I loved the music, it was gentle and reflective. It also was a character in the story.

    The acting was good, solid, and appropriate for the type of story.

    The story it self was closed, revealing only what it needed to, provoking emotional reactions where it needed to.

    This was not merely a story, not merely a tale to be told, rather it was a meditation for the ears, and for they eyes, wrapped in a story as old as life itself, of love, obsession, and wanting to have what we cannot, and forgetting about what we already have.

    I believe this is a film to be watched, but understand it will not be liked by all, for me I am already counting the moments until I watch it again.

    Such is the nature of some obsessions...
  • jotix1009 August 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    Herve Joncour, a young man in France, fresh from the army, receives a proposal he cannot refuse: he must go to Japan to collect silk worms and bring them to France where the silk industry has been dying because of a plague that has affected them. Before he undertakes the trip to the East, he marries the beautiful woman he loves, Helene. Since the action takes place in the middle of the XIX century, such an endeavor was not without its risks.

    When Herve gets to Japan, he encounters an exotic place where he is made to go blindfolded to an unknown area searching for the worms. As he deals with the ruthless man that is key to selling the treasure to bring back, he meets a mysterious woman who captures his imagination and gets the best of him. Since they don't exchange a word, Herve's mind is full of her exotic beauty.

    He returns to France and becomes rich from the silk that is produced using the worms he has brought back. Helene, has waited for him, but her only regret is that she never conceives a child to make her complete. Herve has no problem adapting himself to the duplicity within his heart.

    On the second trip to Japan, Herve receives a note from the woman that dominates his thoughts. Since it's written in Japanese characters, he has no way of knowing what she meant. For that, he must secure the help of a Madame of a house of ill repute in Lyons. The message, when is read by the lady confounds him completely. What is he to make out of the strange message?

    Something happened to Alessandro Baricco's novel "Silk" on the way to the movies. The novel, one of the best narratives by the author, was a pleasure to read. The screen adaptation by its director Francois Girard and Michael Golding, is not as poetic as this team probably intended to. Where the book felt almost like a poem, the film doesn't do the same for us, who have admired Mr. Baricco's work. It deserved better.

    The problem appears to be in the casting the role of Herve. Michael Pitt mumbles most of his way throughout the film. His take on the character is what, in our humble opinion, derails the film. This part needed someone who could make the viewer believe Herve's passion going on in his head, but unfortunately, being because of Mr. Girard's direction, or Mr. Pitt's inability to make Herve come alive, one doesn't get that impression.

    Kira Knightly has a small role as Helene. Ms. Knightly doesn't show much chemistry with Mr. Pitt, thus their scenes feel flat. Sei Ashina, who is seen as the object of desire, gives the right tone to her performance. Alfred Molina appears as the sponsor of Herve.

    The best thing in the film is the cinematography of Alain Dostie, who photograph the beautiful backgrounds with loving care. Visually, the film will please the viewer going without having read the novel. The Japanese and Italian natural settings worked miracles for a film that shows almost no substance.
  • In 1862, the son of the mayor of a French village, Hervé Joncour (Michael Pitt), is invited by the silk entrepreneur Baldabiou (Alfred Molina) to travel to Africa to bring healthy silkworm eggs for his factory. Hervé first marries his beloved bride Hélène Joncour (Keira Knightley) and then he travels in the long journey. He succeeds, makes fortune and is invited to travel again to trade silkworm eggs in a longer journey to Japan. He is received by the local baron in a secret spot and falls in love for his Chinese concubine. Hervé returns to Hélène, but remains obsessed in the concubine. When he has a chance, he returns to Japan to trade the eggs and stay with his unattainable love.

    "Silk" is an emotionless romance with wonderful cinematography and locations and completely miscast. The expressionless baby face Michael Pitt is an insipid and weak actor and could never have the lead role. I am a great fan of Keira Knightley, but the make-up work is very poor and she does not look aged or ill in the end of the story. The situation exposed in the movie is quite ridiculous: Hervé is just-married and in deep love for Hélène; when he travels to Japan, a concubine only glances at him and touches him in the bath, and that is enough for him to become obsessed by the woman. I can not believe that a successful novel could be so shallow. My vote is six.

    Title (Brazil): "Paixão Proibida" ("Forbidden Passion")
  • david-28217 September 2007
    Warning: Spoilers
    This is an "art film" narrative gone wrong. While I appreciated the cinematography, I am afraid that this element alone is not enough to succeed to make a commercially viable film. One needs a story that elicits some kind of reaction. It is as if the actors sleepwalked through this film. Keira Knghtly, while attractive and talented enough, was particularly ill - suited for this film. Michael Pitt was, well, kind of lazy - at best. I do not want to get a posting that says "spoiler" - but I truly mean that this film was simply surprisingly completely "vacuous." Even the 'period' town was inauthentic. These producers raised a lot of money and produced a very very dull uninteresting film. While this is not a crime -- maybe it should be. We wait and wait but nothing really ever happens . . . and throughout, I am afraid to say, the lead actor mumbles his way through about 109 minutes of profound pain for the viewer. SILK could be an insomniac's newest best friend.
  • vvdmaster16 November 2007
    Can we really watch a movie lasting almost two hours just for its stunning cinematography and some glimpse of storytelling, or should it rather be the other way around? I think "Silk" proves that it is often impossible to adequately translate a deep, emotionally charged book into a credible and enjoyable movie. Personally, I just got terribly bored less than halfway through the movie. Yes, it is visually compelling. And yes, there are some fine moments in the acting, especially from Alfred Molina. But as a whole this leaves with quite a disappointing feeling in the viewer, the feeling that with all that money and resources and brilliant actors perhaps they could have come up with something a bit different. And a little less slow.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I will not give this film a rating. I don't know how to rate a film like this. But I feel compelled to write it a comment. It has been severely misjudged here by many people who are desperately in effort to make film critics out of themselves.

    When I tried to read comments on this film, I saw "Soooo Slowwwwww" and "White Man Saves Asian Women Again". That did not feel so good, but I hope those who love this film or want to know about it read my comment too.

    The beauty of this film is not in the advancement of story, or in dialogue, but in visual narration accompanied by very well chosen musical score. If you have read many classic novels written in the good old days, the pattern of story development will not look radically unique to you.

    Hervé Joncour is a man living in a remote village in France in middle nineteenth century. People are out of work there, they have not seen much of industry if any at all. Only a small scale revolution could save the village from extinction. And a man with wild but not-too-impractical ideas came to the village one day and things were never the same again for people there. He renovated the silk-mill. But he needed silk eggs entirely untouched by the unknown disease. He sent Hervé first to Africa and then to Japan, away from his sweetheart. Hervé became quite an adventurer and procurer. And then he met "The Girl" in the world of mysticism and snow.

    The story that was advancing till now in a pace swifter than anything suddenly became extremely slow developing. The girl's gaze, her eyes, her lips, her breath, her hair lock, her silence, her kneeling pose, her slow turn, way of looking back, the way she bathed, the way she walked, the way she touched, and the wind, the mist, the snow, the sky that lights up before everywhere else, everything became an obsession to him. But he could not speak Japanese. He could not find out if she felt the same for him. Then after one visit, he received a note. He could not ask someone to translate it there, so he had to come back to have it translated later. He found out, it said "Come back, or I shall die."

    Silk is not a story that gives you adrenaline rush. It is not really a classic either. The director's orientation was rather one sided. He showed some things in great detail, leaving some things ridiculously out of focus. But he showed perfectly what he wanted to show. The curiosity, the undeniable pull toward the heart of a woman. The little he knew, the bigger became his obsession. They say, a woman's heart is an ocean of mysteries. He was very close to the shore, yet it proved to be too far afterwards.

    Would I recommend this film? Hard to say. It is definitely not a feel good film. But yes, it is a work of art. Those who take deep pleasure in relishing cinema, this is for them. But if you are looking for a good time, a nice time, an easy time, and you are renting this one, don't come here afterwards to blame it on the film. Art is made for art's sake. Appreciate it, or don't, but show respect.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is undoubtedly the most tedious film that I've seen all year. It is the sort of film that gives 'art house' films a bad name.

    The acting is wooden throughout though worse than usual as it appears as if all the actors have been heavily doped with some sedative the slow, deliberate way they ponderously shuffle about. The dialogue is wholly unconvincing but, sadly, only occasionally risibly so.

    There were a couple of highlights. In one scene there's an interestingly designed basket of lemons hanging on the wall - I had time to commit to memory and it might work well as a wire basket. There are also numerous scenes of somebody playing billiards with himself (no, not pocket billiards!) on a real billiard table. You don't see many of those about these days.

    They don't seem to have been clear about what language the film was supposed to be spoken in. It mainly has rhotic 'r's, but not always. It is beyond me why, when they were supposed to be French, they didn't just hire real French actors and actresses - even if they then tried to speak English it would have been more authentic sounding. It would have been better in the original language with sub-titles.

    The garden looked just like you'd expect a hastily prepared film-set garden to look - quite unconvincing.

    The beard continuity is all over the place. The lead robot grows several beards that all look different.

    On top of all these failings, it is nastily, gooilly sickly- sentimental. Mawkishness drives almost every scene.

    I wish somebody had told me to avoid this film. See it only if you want a kip.

    Somebody must have bribed somebody a vast amount not to have this sent straight to DVD.

    Amazingly the director also directed 'The Red Violin', a first rate film in almost every way - he must have been drinking himself into a coma every day since then or had a nasty accident that damaged his brain.

    Do not be misled by the comments suggesting that this is artistic or worth watching!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I just saw this movie tonight. That director should be ashamed-especially since I loved the Red Violin. The pacing here was incredibly slow. Sllllllooooooowwwww. I don't require every movie to movie like a music video, but this was like the unabridged version of Les Miserables-60 pages of unnecessary exposition on something of no consequence to the story.

    For example, the Dutch Merchant? What happened to him? Why were we given that ominous clue if Herve did not try to find out what happened to him? That scene never should have been in the movie. Why did the Concubine slip him that note? Why were we told that detailed story of Ludovic's silent father? The boy and his mom were very minor characters.

    I also don't require movies to spell out everything for me, but this was certainly one of those adaptations where people who had not read the book were a bit lost. Even the central question of why Helene did what she did, and how she knew who he was obsessed with was never answered. And how did they both know to go to the Japanese prostitute? Alfred Molina's character must have had something to do with it? The childlessness and long illness seemed tacked on-if they had something to do with Helene's weird behavior, I could have accepted it. But this all seemed like a lot of strangeness in the 19th century.

    Maybe I'll read the book.
  • For those who fell under the spell of Alessandro Baricco's novel SILK, a meditation about love, desire, and conflict, this cinematic transformation adapted as a screenplay and directed by François Girard will not disappoint: reservations about making Baricco's poetry visual are for the most part put to rest. The resulting film, SILK, is supported by a sensitive cast, wondrous cinematography by Alain Dostie, a haunting musical score by Ryuichi Sakamoto, and is an appropriate extension of the beauty of Baricco's short novel.

    Set in France in 1862, Hervé Joncour (Michael Pitt) is following his family tradition of military duty until a somewhat mysterious man named Baldabiou (Alfred Molina) approaches Hervé's father Mayor Joncour (Kenneth Welsh) with an idea to increase the tiny French town's revenues by capitalizing on the manufacture of silk. He talks the town council into fortifying his project and in a short time Baldabiou has several silk mills running. A problem arises when an infection attacks the silkworm eggs and threatens to destroy the business. Baldabiou convinces Hervé to travel to Africa to buy silkworm eggs to solve the dwindling supply. Hervé, meanwhile, has met and fallen in love with the beautiful Hélène (Keira Knightley) who is loving enough to encourage Hervé's travel to Africa for the eggs, a trip Hervé makes and returns with eggs that make the town's mills thrive, allowing the prospering relationship between Hervé and Hélène to result in marriage and hopes for a happy future.

    The eggs are again attacked by disease and this time Baldabiou sends Hervé to Japan where the perfect eggs can be smuggled out of the country: the trip is arduous, long (through Europe, Russia, China to Japan), and while Hervé succeeds in securing the precious eggs, he also loses his heart to the seductive eyes of the baron's concubine (Sei Ashina). Upon returning home the town prospers, Hervé and Hélène try to have children, but Hervé is again forced to travel to Japan for more eggs - and to fulfill the longing to see the concubine again. Japan is now at war and the trip is far more harrowing than before and while Hervé doesn't satisfy his desire for the concubine, she gives him a note in Japanese as he departs for France. Upon returning to France, Hervé has the note translated: 'Come back or I shall die'. His love for Hélène remains strong and he shares the experience he had in Japan. A letter is delivered to Hervé, a beautiful love letter, and it is at this point that Hélène becomes ill and the events that transpire bring life to the real meaning of love in an unexpected way.

    There are problems with the film: the Japanese conversations are not translated by subtitles (perhaps the director wants us to feel the alienation of a Frenchman in a strange land) making the viewer feel that chunks of the story are missing; the emphasis of the film is more concentrated on the beauty of the various locales than on the character development; Michael Pitt is a fine actor but the inner conflicts of his character are not explored well. But these flaws are minor when the scope of the film is viewed in full. It is a beautiful work and one that will satisfy the readers of the novel from which it was adapted. Grady Harp
  • ryob713722 March 2009
    This movie was a complete train wreck, it seemed to be in shambles from the very beginning. The story was quite boring, the acting was mediocre at best, and the images were stale. Many people are saying the images were beautiful, but I would completely disagree. This film is trying to be overly artsy and ends up detracting from the potential of some of the scenes. If you are searching for a beautifully shot film, may I suggest something like House of Flying Daggers or Hero. As far as acting goes, even Keira Knightley's performance was disappointing. As seen in the Jacket, Knightley's American accent just does not seem to work and ends up being distracting from her performance, coupled with the weak script the film just begins to flop. This movie just falters on so many levels, has some serious plot holes and fails to connect on any level. I have not read the book and many people seem to say that you should read the book before watching this film, but purely as a stand alone movie this film just does not work.
  • This film was actually good, and I expected the worst :)...

    It's interesting to watch with somebody of the opposite sex that you don't know well. You could tell a few things about her afterwards, like: Does she like classical music? Does she feel anything when watching splendid landscapes? Is she intelligent enough to figure the story's twist near the end? (I wasn't even close) Does she like "slow" movies? Can she withstand a moderate dose of "drama"? Can she feel Helene's plight?

    The only character I really liked was Afred Molina's "Baldabiou". He's an entrepreneur with flavour for life. Likable, tough but sensitive. A "father figure" to "Herve", who sorely needs one with such a bore of a father! Herve's attitude to life was a bit strange to me. My friend said something that's always been there: "he never smiles". True, he barely winces, never seems to be happy, just like drowsily fulfilling a desk job. Schuyler was great in his small role. How a street smart adversary can become a restrained source of practical wisdom! Madame Blanche is also a necessary small role, but that has the life experience Herve will always lack. He surely got sympathy from smart strangers! I didn't get involved in Ludovic Berbek's story, although it's there with the clear intention of moving us. I also thought all this story of "marital unhappiness", infertility and she crying as they made love was a bit contrived. I will never like Keira, but at least she doesn't look like a "tomboy beanpole" (!) as she said on one interview. Which wouldn't be becoming for her "modest wife" role. She's not as good as her Guinevere, but at least she does her rather plain role without showing off. She doesn't look anorexic like in other roles. Maybe she didn't endure wearing a corset like on "Pirates of the Caribbean".

    The best review I read was "Grady Harp from United States". I think it deserves to be the one you read first.

    My favourite scene is when the local baron shows cold Herve the peaceful place he and his ancestors enjoy for watching nature and connecting with nature. I also wanted to "have a garden" after watching this, thou I content myself with some plants in the balcony :)! And Japan shows itself like a harsh country, both geographically and with respect to the Japanese. An ancient land with rules hard to understand by any westerner. I did like the fact that the Japanese dialogues weren't subtitled. Unlike "Memoirs of a Geisha" & even "the last Samurai" I think that made us feel a bit like it must have been. The sort of "ostrananie" experience that the Russian formalist extolled as "Art".
  • Warning: Spoilers
    What urged me to write something about this film was the unbelievable way critics (and even its current IMDb rating) made it sound like a boring waste of time. Like some users have said before, this is a _work of art_. The scenarios, the colors, the sounds -- the *silence* itself (which seems to bother so many people in today's society) -- are what makes "Silk" a great movie. Yes, I would have gone and seen this in a movie theater one way or another because I've been highly interested in checking out as many performances from Keira Knightley as possible since "Pride & Prejudice", but the truth is, by the time I finally got to, I was terribly afraid it would be a regretful mistake. Turns out it certainly, truly wasn't.

    Everyone mentions how aesthetically gorgeous this film is (even I have said so already earlier in this review), but what many fail to see is that beauty is _not_ its main trait -- it is not even its best one. To me, "Silk" is about how irrational passion can drive you away from the "straight lines" in life (as Alfred Molina's character hints in a beautiful metaphor near the end). I don't mean this in a bad way, and certainly not in a moralist one: on the contrary, what our protagonist goes through is far too human to be detestable or harshly judged. He's beautifully stupid, humanly blind. Choosing an irrational mirage over devoted love is something we have all done once, or will, or at least consider and think about (and if you don't have a life of your own to be sure, you can trust me on this one). Passion just has a way of making you clueless... and, well, Knightley's character is truly admirable, and a great human being, in the forever-devoted way she deals with the "dark" reality she's subject to.

    This, and not just nice scenarios, is what "Silk" is about: the most normal of men, dealing the most normal of lives, falls in love with a beautiful, loving woman, whom he marries; yet, he's bored, like so many of us are. He leaves in business to a faraway country - Japan -, to a remote village he's only allowed to reach blindfolded, and he's caught under the spell of the forbidden, unreachable, exotic feeling about this place, from the "strange trees" to a certain woman he never actually gets to touch (at least, in a satisfactory way). He becomes obsessed with this woman, and irrationally proceeds to ignore his quiet life and devoted wife back in France, instead attempting to get as close to this mysterious woman as possible. In the process, a child is murdered, and more than just a couple of people get hurt over our lead character's lack of common sense. But who can blame him? He's not a likable character (not in my book), but his many flaws are human. When he finally comes to his senses and learns to value what he's been lucky to have in the first place, terrible circumstances cut his newly-found, mature happiness back at home unfairly short. In addition to all this, a final, unexpected revelation will turn Hélène into an even more awe-deserving character, as well as make this film worth your while, if it still hadn't by then.

    Hervé's "trip" -- from boredom to lack of rational thought and pursuit of an unattainable mirage and, finally, to mature grounds of happiness -- is one most of us have to overcome when we first engage into a serious relationship and a settled lifestyle, even if we don't go through all that in Japan -- and the fact that we all have, or have had, our life derail at one point or another is what makes this film so easy to relate to in its essence (not necessarily on the more shallow levels, of course).

    This is a wonderful work of art. Yes, it's slow, and you need patience if you plan to watch it -- oh, and a brain, too. And, on top of all that, feelings. A life. The acting is pretty good, the characters are all unique in a way or another, and the idea behind all this is beautifully true. So, if you think you fit the requirements, do yourself and your many senses a favor and go watch "Silk" and soon as you can.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Excellent cinematography and fine performances. This is the first time I've seen Keira Knightley turn in such a subtle and faceted performance. It suits her well.

    Other reviewers complained about things like lack of subtitles for the Japanese dialogue, lack of emotion in the performances, lack of believability in the infatuation that takes place in Japan, and complaints that the film was 'too slow'.

    First: The Japanese dialogue didn't require subtitles. An observant viewer could figure out what's going on easily enough.

    Second: This is one of the few films out there that actually dialed-down the tendency to over-act scenes. For this reason, it's a more realistic portrayal of human beings. I'm noticing a definite increase in the number of people out there that can't seem to identify subtle emotions. Not sure what's up with that. It's a disturbing trend.

    Third: Clearly people who don't believe the in-Japan romance portion of this film have never experienced love at first sight (or maybe they're inexperienced in relationships).

    Fourth: Complaints of this genre of film being too slow are ridiculous. My advice for people who have this complaint is to stick to action films (or practise observing and acknowledging visual information). Maybe take up hiking or an art class. That might help.

    In summary, if you have a sophisticated eye for film and are mature enough in areas of romance (failed or otherwise), this is a film that you'll likely appreciate.
  • Wow, another movie in which the good-intentioned white man travels to Asia and meets a "mysterious and seductive" Asian woman who is bound by an evil and dominating Asian man. The trailer shows her naked in a pool of water, then contrasts that shot by showing the lead White woman clothed in another body of water. This belittlement of Asian women has been and continues to be offensive to the Asian American and Asian community, but I guess as long as "The Last Samurai" (or shall I say "White man saves Asian woman from her own culture")plot keeps selling tickets these movies will keep popping up. I'm just waiting until a Hollywood movie casts an Asian man as the lead and he travels to America and gets all the seductive white girls he can handle. Guess I wont hold my breath for that!
  • jn-4616 September 2007
    In 1862 France, a small town mayor's son marries an exquisite young woman. Soon after, he's hired by a silk merchant to travel thousands of miles by carriage, train, caravan, ship and horseback to buy silkworm eggs in a remote mountain village in Japan – an isolated nation torn apart by warlords and hostile to Westerners. Although he has a beautiful and loving wife awaiting his return, he becomes obsessed with the lovely young concubine of a powerful Japanese feudal baron. His choice, love or desire. However, in real life neither of these beauties would give the mayor's son the time of day because he's a lethargic, vacuous, sleepwalking, unkempt zombie. Fortunately, the gorgeous wife, concubine, prostitute and cinematography overcome this egregious miscasting and make the film a wise masterpiece.
  • Adapted from a rather short but great novel, they had space to expand it in the movie but didn't make the most of it. It has nice cinematography, a good soundtrack (with a beautiful main theme used in trailers), solid base story and good acting by Kiera Knightley. However, it's a love story and I wasn't moved by the romantic aspects one bit. I think the main fault lies with the main actor who just didn't convey emotions well enough. He looks good but seriously lacks in acting chops, at least in this one. The chemistry between the actors was also severely lacking. The pace was slow, which can sometimes work in period pieces to improve the atmosphere, but unfortunately here it was mostly a detriment. It might be worth a rental but I would pick other period romantic stories first.

    Rating: 5 out of 10
  • The first thing one notices about this film is that Michael Pitt speaks in a verrrrry slow monotone. Then you realize that it is right in keeping with this dull, plodding, endlessly pretentious film. This movie is not only boring, it's exhausting. You're in Europe, then China, then Europe, then China. Someone's reading a letter, someone's playing billiards, then letter then billiards then flowers. STOP! Who is this film made for? The male lead is totally uninteresting. Even Keira Knightly suffers from the ennui of the script.It would seems that Mr. Pitt has a name and even a following. One can't imagine why. He looks like a thousand other Hans Brinker-type actors, has no discernible charisma and couldn't provide a single moment of depth to this character. But then everyone else was equally tiresome. I suspect that the director, not speaking English very well, encouraged all the actors to say their lines as slowly as possible. That's the only possible explanation for this synthetic fabrication.
  • Silk was a flop, not the international success its backers had hoped for after the director's The Red Violin made such a splash a decade earlier. It is worthy of attention, in pinpointing some cautionary messages to other would-be Visionary (that recently overworked term) filmmakers.

    1. TRAVELOGUE: Film is unfortunately a highly literal, through visuals, medium, and it is easy to become mesmerized by the shots. Mature directors scrupulously avoid this pitfall, but perhaps Canadian director Francois Girard has subconsciously assimilated the approach of Terrence Malick. Like Malick, he only ventures forth from his artistic cave once a decade, and feels compelled to make each shot the most perfect and beautiful of all time. This is not cinema -this is "how I spent my vacation" -a $20,000,000 slide show.

    2. FOOLED BY THE RUSHES: It could be a by-product of the far-flung co-production status (Silk is structured officially as a Canadian/Italian/Japanese project, an unusual combo), but the movie displays an age-old problem of Hollywood, caused by over-monitoring of the rushes. Many a stiff, stolid film result has looked "marvelous" in the dailies. Studios traditionally made decisions like director firings or bringing in a troubleshooter to haul in the reins on a project based on the quality of the rushes. This makes sense in a bean-counter universe, but has nothing to do with the ultimate movie, which as Hitchcock noted, is stored in the director's head. Watching Silk I was struck that the rushes coming back from the various locations truly must have looked fabulous, but that is no indicator that they would ultimately amount to anything in a gestalt sense. Only the director and his editors know what will be needed in terms of coverage, and how the pieces might mesh into a whole. It's easy to get bamboozled by striking shots, just as at the other extreme it's easy to assume the worst when a neophyte director falls behind schedule and isn't giving the execs their daily meters of processed celluloid.

    3. DISTANCING: Brecht and Godard have long been the inspiration for film directors to keep the audience at a safe distance -break up the naturally hypnotic effect that a movie has for the viewer, which Hitchcock exploited to a fare-thee-well. In Silk, Girard uses the crutch of voice-over narration to sabotage one's involvement in the action/dialog/story. Like Zentropa, another pretentious exercise by a wannabe "visionary" director, the somnolent narration literally puts the viewer to sleep. His insistence on oft-criticized bland American accents for French characters further abstracts the story, and makes it near-impossible to smoothly enter into the life of the protagonists. Low affect is the instruction to lead Michael Pitt and even Alfred Molina, the latter bringing professional life to his rattled off exposition, and even some wit. Keira Knightley gets to actually emote in her patented shy-but-effusive manner, but I noticed the director cutting away from her as quickly as possible, and even though she is the key central figure of the story's romantic theme, her overall screen time is reduced to the bare minimum. The dialog by Girard and Michael Golding is almost all in the form of recitations: never sounding natural or using vernacular. That's as big a mistake as the bland American accents.

    4. CRYPTIC: Adapting a novel is difficult; perhaps this is why the Academy gives a separate Oscar category for adaptations as opposed to the Original Screenplay niche for the Woody Allens of the world. Too often a film (or TV) adaptation REQUIRES that the viewer be not just conversant but well-nigh totally immersed in the source work in order to appreciate the film. (I recently watched the British TV series A Dance to the Music of Time, via Netflix, after a marathon reading of all 12 Powell novels it's based upon, and the damn thing would have made no sense whatsoever without having the books fresh in my mind.) For Silk, many basic and virtually all nuanced elements are lost without knowledge of the source, a damning fault. The intended purity of not subtitling the Japanese dialog segments falls squarely into this problem area too. The movie should stand alone, and if it can't, why bother? It's not impossible -everybody's favorite of all-time The Godfather saw Coppola creating a work of art that never requires one to go back and read Mario Puzo's pulp novel.

    5. THE PITT FACTOR: Folks love to criticize young Mr. Pitt, an actor who future generations will scratch their heads over: "how did he get into so many films?". Pauly Shore, Phillips Holmes in the '30s, and many 4-F performers like Sonny Tufts and William Prince during WW II come to mind. Following the death of James Dean, for over a decade innumerable folks imitated his breakthrough persona, of which I recall Michael Parks and Christopher Jones becoming the most typecast. Now we have Mr. Pitt, the lookalike thespian doomed to live in the shadow of Leonardo DiCaprio, let alone his equally handsome namesake Brad. What a cross to bear!

    6. UNLOCKING THE MYSTERY: I was reminded of Werner Herzog's overlooked classic Heart of Glass while watching Silk. Both films have transcendentally beautiful landscapes. Underneath the main romantic and cross-cultural themes, they have the same core parable: a one-industry community (Glassblowing in Herzog, Silk creation here) poised on the edge of disaster. Herzog hypnotized his cast to get a unique, otherworldly effect. Girard has Pitt & most others sleepwalking, to null effect.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I enjoyed nearly every moment of the film. But it just lacked substance.

    At the end of the movie I felt that its reason for being was to depict a voice from the grave. It did that not badly. But it did nothing else.

    Things I liked: Atmosphere. Pace. Images. Touches of cultural differences (all of which might just as well have been learned by the filmmakers in other movies). Seeing Keira Knightley in bed (yes, that bed). Woo woo. Seeing the Mogami River (I have my reasons).

    Things I didn't like: The typical Hollywood depiction of a years-long-married couple acting like they are on an eternal honeymoon (well, maybe not eternal. Ha ha). They act always just as enamored of each other as when they were first seeing each other romantically, pre-marriage. Except, Herve does get the occasional glazed look just before he passionately takes her in his arms, kisses her with considerable verve, and professes undying love for her.

    Bad editing:

    That woman whom we don't know suddenly having the baby we tend to assume is the Joncour's, but isn't.

    He mentions that the lilies bloomed a few days after she died, but we had seen white lilies blooming in profusion near their house long before that. So, big deal.

    Puzzles:

    The broken glasses of the Dutch guy which mean? Not a clue. Oh, he was killed? So what? It had zero relevance.

    The one-armed billiard shot and the guy packing up all and leaving town. So what? Zero significance and no sense.

    Why did the Japanese master guy not kill Herve with his rifle? He was afraid of some CSI team being kicked into action in the remote mountains of Northern Japan in the late 19th century that would somehow incriminate him? Not likely, is it? After all, we have the broken glasses which show what he is capable of. Not to mention the boy. So why didn't he? No clue. Was it just to show his subordinate warriors how weak he was?

    It's a pity Herve couldn't have fallen into lust with a young and attractive wife of a local French nobleman. It sure could have saved him a lot of travel time and expense.

    Basically, the story is no different (apart from cinematic exaggerations) than some happily married man developing a crush on and fantasizing about a local grocery store clerk. After all, the movie made it clear that his relationship with the "Japanese" exotic mystery woman went unconsummated. What a naive jerk. "I'm getting a little horny for some strange. Even though I haven't yet scored with her I think I'll go off on a month's long horrendously grueling and perilous trek, risking my life and livelihood at every moment and every turn and leave my young, horny, Keira-Knightley wife, who is avid to become with child, alone to stew in her desperately lonely bed during the dark and bleak nights of my interminably long absence; like none of the fathers of her pupils in this small village are going to notice her situation and seek numerous consultations, one-to-one with her, over their kids' "academic progress." And I'm going to journey to the far side of the Earth to the distant mountains of Japan where I can diddle around and not actually do anything with that exotic woman except possibly again wait for two days while I get nothing but stood up by her not appearing, at all, even once, like in those last two days. And as if she wasn't in a frighteningly dangerous liaison of her own: lethally dangerous to us both. But, you know, I kinda like that free chick she or her master pimped me. Hope I can get some of that again." Yep, total jerk; which by association implicates this movie.

    The second letter that was read by the madam was written in a too direct way betraying its non-Japanese orientation, and, as well, mimicked the earlier stated opinion of the madam. I thought the madam was making up the words she was saying and not telling the truth about what was written. A purveyor of commercial sex might be jealous of someone who had found something she no longer could ever find: a profound emotional attachment with a true lover (which in this case wasn't true because the infatuation was unconsummated).

    I figured Herve was going to have to get a second opinion about what was written in the letter which would be shocking and deeply moving. In fact, we have only the madam's word for what was contained in the letter. The madam, a woman who, by running a brothel, lived a life of lies and illusion dominated by commercial sex, may have found the true contents of the letter so contrary to her jaded world view that she felt compelled to lie to and somehow injure Herve, was what I was thinking. When he found out the truth we would be off on a journey now of passionate adventure and connection. I guess the movie was already supposed to be that. It wasn't.

    So when the letter was said by the madam (who could make up anything she wanted because no one else could verify what she said, she being the only person in the movie who could decipher the unreadable, cryptic Japanese) to be written by Helene I accepted that as the shocking and deeply moving aspect of the true meaning of the letter.

    But the story told by Herve to Ludovic may not be the true story. We have only the man-hating madam's words that it is so. And Herve is a man.
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