Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the 2015 Hollywood Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit hollywoodfilmfestival.com and follow the festival on Twitter at @hollywoodfest.
The Key, directed by Jefery Levy is the third onscreen adaptation of a novel of the same name by Junichiro Tanizaki, and it premiered at the Hollywood Film Festival. William MacCollum’s feverish cinematography and David Arquette and Bai ling’s distant yet fiery chemistry makes this a compelling visual treat.
William MacCollum’s feverish cinematography and David Arquette and Bai ling’s distant yet fiery chemistry makes this a compelling visual treat.
After 16 years of marriage, Jack (David Arquette) starts writing a sexual diary concerning the dwindling communication in his sex life, with no intention of hiding it from his wife Ida (Bai Ling), going to the extent of keeping the key in the lock of the box where the diary is kept. Ida, respecting his privacy but intrigued, starts documenting her own feelings about this in her laptop. Jack suspects Ida of having an affair with his daughter’s friend Kim, and the jealousy makes him love her more. After a night of drinks, Ida collapses and is bedridden while a doctor is called. As she is drifting in and out of consciousness, Jack makes love to her. These events repeat the next day, with Ida murmuring Kim’s name, which turns on Jack, making him repeat this routine for several nights. Is Ida really cheating on Jack, or are these just ramblings from her subconscious? Are both of them manipulating each other to get a sexual high? Watch it to know.
Ida’s being with someone else and turning Jack into a frenzy is represented nicely by the moody visuals. The whole film is essentially a narration of the dairies by Jack and Ida. As they read their entries, corresponding visuals flood the scene - flickering lights with still images and sepia tones, that seem to add a fervour to the screen. The over whelming editing seems to be making up for the lack of movements in the shots. The movie doesn’t have linear scenes that follow one and another, it is more of a recreation of the visuals of Ida’s and jack’s memories in photographic style. There are very few scenes that are devoid of any filters or effects, which is a pity because the backgrounds, location, set design, even Ida’s whole look is phenomenal, and would look great in the natural light.
There are very few scenes that are devoid of any filters or effects, which is a pity because the backgrounds, location, set design, even Ida’s whole look is phenomenal, and would look great in the natural light.
The story is set in a mansion, where Jack, who is an artist, has his own studio. While the mansion is filled with chandeliers, crockery, luxurious draperies, Jack’s studio is encased in wood with messy canvases. While Jack wears a simple shirt and messes around in the studio, Ida, in the mansion, is splendid in her lacy lingerie, bath robes, and elaborate head gears, graceful with a wine glass in her hand. The contrast between them is shown clearly, they both are attracted and fascinated by each other and this seems to be the basis of their neurotic relationship. Much like Woody Allen’s film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, where the artist and his separated wife beg for Scarlet Johansson to stay and continue to be their lover ‘the salt in the relationship’, only the presence of another man seems to give them satisfaction. The acting and straightforward narration is nearly perfect, Jack is unapologetically sexual and Ida is inscrutable.
This movie translates the mind games and the unspoken communication that curdles a relationship into Jack and Ida’s bond. One may even wonder, is this what happens when people give in to their fantasies or feel a need to spice a relationship? Here you have two people, one is an artist who is consumed with his wife’s affair, and the other person is an alcoholic and a devoted housewife, thinking their marriage was a mistake. Yet both of them claim love for each other. The contradictions present in the film outline the nature of troubled attachments and some of the primitive latent desires present amongst human beings – and how far a relationship can survive based solely on them. Get ready to stir up some food for thought with this one.
This film is a unique cocktail of sex, art and psychological intensity that few may have a taste for.