Current user rating: 74/100 (20 votes)
- Movie: Silk
- Japanese: シルク
- Director: François Girard
- Writer: Nami Iguchi, Yuka Honcho
- Release Date: September 11, 2007
- Runtime: 112 min.
- Language: English, Japanese
- Country: Canada / France / Italy / UK / Japan
Sensual and bewitching, Silk is a daringly erotic story with a breathtaking historical sweep. It is the most recent gem from Festival favourite François Girard, the director of the award-winning The Red Violin, who is no stranger to lush period pieces laced with obsession and ill-fated lust. With an all-star cast that includes Michael Pitt, Miki Nakatani, Keira Knightley, Koji Yakusho and Alfred Molina, Silk is a cinematic powerhouse in every sense, its story a whispered elegy to a love so powerful it threatens to demolish a man’s life.
Silk is based on the best-selling novel by Italian author Alessandro Baricco, which has enthralled readers worldwide over the past decade. The story follows Hervé Joncour (Pitt), a nineteenth-century French silkworm merchant who is married to the beautiful Hélène (Knightley). When a strange disease depletes Hervé’s supply of the precious insects, he becomes a smuggler, travelling to Japan for its store of silkworms. Although Japan in 1861 is largely closed to trade with the outside world, he manages to cut a deal with an enigmatic nobleman who agrees to sell him all of the eggs he requires.
While in the intrigue-ridden Japanese court, Hervé catches sight of a mysterious woman. As soon as their eyes meet, Hervé is entranced. They do not touch or speak to one another. She gives him a note, but he cannot read it until he returns to his own country and has it translated. When he does, Hervé becomes consumed by thoughts of the woman as if by a waking dream. He makes a second trip to Japan for silkworms, and the two begin a secret affair. Hervé falls deeper and deeper into a trance – until his wife grows suspicious.
Silk transports us back to a Japan whose centuries-long resistance to foreign trade is just beginning to crumble in the face of encroaching modernity. Following Hervé’s path through Japan, Italy and Egypt, the film has a geographical authenticity that makes its rapturous narrative all the more enveloping. Girard spins a rich, hypnotizing tale as enchanting as the gossamer thread after which it is named. -- TIFF
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