Silk is like that good-looking celebrity you admire from afar for a while, and when you finally get the chance to sit down and talk to them, they turn out to be vapid and uninteresting. The strength of this movie lies in the visuals, as was the case with another of director François Girard's aesthetically appealing films, The Red Violin. Nature appears to be at its most lush and there are some gorgeous costumes. François Girard and his cinematographer Alain Dostie also seem to have a love for Asian cultures, creating stunning shots of the landscape and people alike. Yet beyond the visuals the movie has an empty feeling to it.
Michael Pitt sleepily plays Hervé, a young silk merchant who travels to a remote part of Japan for healthy eggs at the prompting of his ambitious boss Baldabiou (Alfred Molina, bringing his usual strength and warmth). While there, he encounters a beautiful concubine with whom he becomes obsessed. Even when he's not required to return to Japan and despite political strife rendering the journey dangerous, he goes anyway, inexplicably drawn to this woman with whom he can't even communicate. For more about Silk,
Keira Knightley plays Hervé's willowy and devoted wife Helene, and she does just fine with the role. In many ways, this is Helene's story more than her husband's, and while Knightley is pretty and tries her best, the material she's given is flimsy at best. Pitt gives her blessed little to work with as well, his efforts to be (I think) introspective and thoughtful coming across instead as sluggish and confused.
Silk is based on a lovely, sensual, Italian novel by Alessandro Baricco, and I can easily understand why one would want to visually interpret the lyrical beauty of the words. It's a sweet story but doesn't lend itself to a lot of intriguing action or dialogue — only a succession of beautiful frames. That's nice and all, but I left the movie wishing the filmmakers' efforts had gone toward making paintings or photographs rather than an ill-conceived movie.