Sunday, February 24, 2008

Silk. Movies are not supposed to get this boring. (Alliance Films) Out this coming Tuesday, February 26th. (***3/10)

My girlfriend watched the trailers for "Silk" and was very excited to watch it. I thought it might be good too - I like Francois Girard, the director. He's done some quality films, like The Red Violin and Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. (The representative Canadian film, in that it stars Colm Feore as a Canadian icon.) And as Girard is a Canadian director, and he used Canadian people in the production, this film qualifies (yay!) as "Canadian" in the arbitrary terms that make a film eligible for a Genie. And when a film qualifies as "Canadian", yet has international stars and opens to a wide North American release, it has a leg up in terms of the Genies. There are always five nominations for "best picture", and if we're lucky, two of those films will have been recognized outside their own province. This year, Eastern Promises and Away From Her are the two movies that were bigger than "Canada" that got Genie nominations. And Silk was bigger than "Canada". It stars Keira Knightley, it has a much bigger budget than your standard Canuck flick, and it received international distribution.

This should have been a red flag for me. A movie that was actually seen? AND it's Canadian? It should be a lock for the Genies! And yet...nothing. I've checked - it is eligible. But for a film like this NOT to get nominated for the easiest awards in film to win - it must REALLY suck. And it does. It REALLY sucks. At first I thought it might just be my aversion to Keira Knightley. I really dislike Keira Knightley, thanks mostly to her incredible chemistry-free performances with Orlando Bloom in them Pirates flicks. But I have always blamed this on Orlando Bloom, who is an actor I dislike even more than Knightey. In watching Silk, and Knightley's profound lack of chemistry with Michael Pitt, I realized it may be more her fault than Bloom's. But in this case, I blame Francois Girard even more so. The movie opens with Michael Pitt saying "boy, I sure love this woman" or something like this. I paraphrase. And that is what we have to go on. We don't really see them falling in love, or even really being in love, we are just supposed to take this at face value. They are in love. OK? Now, proceed with the movie.

And the movie does indeed proceed. Slowly, languidly, as though it is building to something. And then it never gets there. 57 minutes in, and we still haven't seen the things that made the trailers so interesting for my girlfriend. You see, Michael Pitt needs to travel to Japan, because his small village is dependant on silk. And there is some kind of disease wiping out the silk worms. So he must go to Japan to collect silk worm eggs, bring them back, have them hatch, and then they can begin the work of spinning silk again. Now, I'm no biologist, but it seems to me that if you have thousands of untainted silk worm eggs, and those hatch silk worms, could those silk worms not breed, and create more eggs, and thus be self-sustaining? Why would Pitt need to leave his wife for six months at a time and go BACK to Japan for more eggs every year? This is not explained. But it doesn't matter. Because the silk worms are not the story. The journey is the story. The journey to Japan, and then the journey back again.

And that journey is explored. Again and again. With long camera shots of the countryside and the scenery all over the world, which are great. And then with long shots of hands touching other hands, hands scooping water, and the back of guys' heads. Those are not OK. They are boring. Especially since there are so many of them. And they last so long. I guess that Pitt takes a lover in Japan - we are to assume this, although any actual contact with any woman does not happen until the movie is more than an hour in. In the meantime, we are supposed to believe that Pitt has fallen madly and obsessively in love with a Japanese concubine because she...smiled at him over tea? So, he continues to return to Japan, searching desperately for this woman because...it was really good tea? If you're going to spend hours filming hands and heads and scenery, why wouldn't you spend at least three minutes showing WHY this man decided to have an affair? Or showing that he actually loves his wife? Three minutes, that's all I ask. One less picture of a horse, and you're there. Movie stays the same length, and we might actually care about someone.

There is no sense of connection between ANY of the characters in this movie. Every time we got to one of those long camera shot scenes, and we knew the actual plot wouldn't begin again for seven minutes, we were on the fast forward button. Toward the end of the film, a little bit of stuff starts to happen. I wouldn't go so far as to call it action, but at least it's...stuff. There is a really painful reading of a "sexy" letter from Japan, Keira Knightley falls ill. And we yell at the movie - "just die already"! But everything is so drawn out and slow that it takes another half hour of our life. This movie is painful, irritating and completely inert. There is no reason to watch, and no reason to enjoy it.

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