SILK (François Girard). 116 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (September 28). Rating: NN
Silk 's opening image is the first clue that this film is going to be a clunker. Michael Pitt 's breathy, ultra-American voice-over narration introduces a mysterious Asian woman ( Sei Ashina ) who looks seductively over her shoulder at us while bathing naked in a hot spring.
Okay, class, can you say "Western exploitation of the East"?
Writer/director François Girard (The Red Violin) has adapted Alessandro Baricco 's compact novel about an 1860s French silk merchant (Pitt) who leaves his pretty young wife ( Keira Knightley ) to find silkworm eggs in Japan, only to begin a lifelong obsession with a mysterious concubine's (Ashina) exotic beauty.
It's essentially an extended travelogue along narrative and geographical terrain we've all seen before. Lovely imagery can't compensate for bum dialogue, the absence of tension until about an hour into the film and a major bit of boneheaded casting in Pitt, whose spacy acting is all wrong for the role and era. Girard wants his movie to be about unruly passions, but Pitt sounds like he's reading off a menu at McDonald's. The movie's a series of exits and entrances.
You have to dig deep beneath all this to spot a subtext about a rich Western nation raping another country's natural resources.