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.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.