Toss this 'Key': David Arquette stars in silly erotic drama

Arty visual effects get in the way of the acting in 'The Key'

Some secret diaries are better left locked.

Case in point:  “The Key,” an American adaptation of an erotic 1956 Japanese novel about a married couple who independently begin keeping graphic journals of their sexual relationship.

When a California wife and mother (Bai Ling) discovers that her artist husband of 16 years (David Arquette) has been keeping a diary of their bedroom activities, she decides to do likewise, spurring the couple to increasingly kinky behavior.

For reasons known only to writer-director Jefery Levy, making the Japanese book suitable for contemporary American consumption meant having a pair of actors trading voice-overs in a deliberately scratched experimental film composed of double-exposed, stroboscopic images.

The arty visual effects, backed by a soundtrack of ambient noise, may recall the experimental work of early practitioners such Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger, but the ponderous, headache-inducing results do the story and the actors no favors.

The original novel, by Nobel Prize laureate Junichiro Tanizaki, had taken the form of a successful 1983 film set in fascist Italy, but this ludicrous "Last Tango in L.A." loses much in the translation.


"The Key"

MPAA rating: None 

Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.

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