Alessandro Baricco’s book “Silk” is a sensitive love triangle with a repetitive structure. Herve Jancour travels to 19th century Japan to smuggle back to Europe silk worms as an epidemic in Europe has killed theirs. Smuggling silk worms out of Japan is a crime. He travels a long distance via Serbia, risking his life, many times.
The character is not particularly intriguing but the oriental fantasy is. It is rooted in fact but definitely fictional and the critics loved it. Mostly because it is beautifully written.
“He took an unassuming pleasure in his possessions, and the likely prospect of becoming truly wealthy left him completely indifferent. He was, besides, one of those men who like to witness their own life, considering any ambition to live it inappropriate.”
Herve Jancour falls in love with a concubine belonging to Hara Kei, the noble man who sells him the eggs.
“Hara Kei went on walking, with slow steps that bore no trace of weariness. Around him was the most absolute silence, and emptiness. As if by a special rule, wherever that man went, he went in an unconditional and perfect solitude.”
Silk is a story of obsession and the need to nourish the heart with curiosity and finding light in a fantasy. A novella, simply written with a fantastic hook and a bittersweet ending. It was made in to an unsuccessful, corny film.
I’ve also been watching the muchmaligned- by-critics Marco Polo on Netflix and thoroughly enjoying it. In it Marco Polo’s father and uncle are smuggling silk worms back to Europe and leave Marco behind as they escape Kublai Khan’s punishment. Mongolia in the 13th century.
Marco Polo joins the other captured but esteemed characters in Kublai’s court. One of his friends is the blind monk Hundred Eyes tasked with training him in martial arts.
But the critics hate it. Most have said the main character is dull and Benedict Wong who plays Kublai Khan is not. It’s beautifully told, with great sets, lavish costumes with a stunning sound track. The fight scenes are heart stopping as is the emotive story telling.
“Untrue by an inch, Untrue by a mile. “ Hundred Eyes when Marco misses his target in archery.
“It is better to be hated for what you are, than to be loved for what you are not.” Hundred Eyes to Kublai Khan.
I think critics are conformists, jumping on trend bandwagons and if enough experts say something is bad and the lead character is dull then other critics, afraid to be different, say the same thing.
In this day of social media and Rotten Tomatoes, I’m happy to say that audiences are unafraid to enjoy themselves. Film should be informative and entertaining. I’ve often watched movies that critics loved and audiences didn’t and thought they were painfully boring. Viva le public.