The Key aka La Chiave (1983) from The Realist and Tuna

"The Key" is one of the elegant and darkly comic novels about the various sexual repressions of Japanese society, as recounted by Junichiro Tanizaki, one of the most directly erotic of all Japanese novelists.

A middle-aged professor in a dying marriage is obsessed with exploring new levels of carnality with his wife. The wife is bored, repressed, prudish, and dissatisfied. This leads to escalating experimentation on his part, and eventually to finding her a young lover.

Each of them keeps a diary, and the other reads it while pretending not to. As they both come to understand the nature of the situation, they gradually start to use the diaries to communicate with one another, although each still pretends not to read the other's

Ah, who better to bring this subtle story to the screen than that noted intellectual and student of Japanese society, Italian softcore pornographer Tinto Brass. Tinto, as you remember, is the man who directed Caligula, at least until producer Bob Guccione decided he could do better and added plenty of his own self-directed footage.

You have to think about that. Place yourself into the situation. You direct erotica for a living, and your work is so uninspiring that Bob Guccione thinks he can improve it. Perhaps you can't relate to that. Let me draw a parallel. You are a professional singer. Bill Shatner is producing your next album. After you record all the tracks, Shatner erases your voice track and dubs in his own voice because he thinks he can do better.

Funny, Stefania Sandrelli doesn't look Japanese.


Tuna's Thoughts

The Key (1983) is a top notch soft core from Tinto Brass, probably best known for the original Caligula. It is based on a novel by Junichirô Tanizaki, and is about an older man and his younger wife. The wife is rather prudish, and makes love with the lights off and under the covers. He wants more from her physically, and hits upon the idea of writing a diary about his longings, and leaving it where she is sure to snoop.

Her initial reaction is very negative, and she starts her own diary to vent, which he discovers. Meanwhile, he discovers the Polaroid, and uses it to capture the parts of her body that she has hidden from him after she goes to sleep. Her daughter's friend, a photographer, develops higher quality explicit photos of her for her husband, and she finds out about the photos. She finally realizes what her husband is after, and decides to play along by seeing the young photographer. Although they stop short of intercourse, they enjoy everything else, and she finds it liberating. She is finally able to give her husband what he has wanted, but it proves to be more than he can handle at his age.

This is a fairly complex premise for a soft-core, and the production standard and acting are far above the norm. Stefania Sandrelli as the wife shows everything, including some gyno shots, several times during the film. The DVD is only available from the UK on Region 2 PAL. It is a very high quality film for the genre, but, as soft-core, gets the max, C+. To me, it was worth the effort of buying it from Europe.

no region 1 DVD info available


Stefania Sandrelli is naked from all angles and in quite explicit detail.

The Critics Vote

  • no reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDB readers say 5.6 out of 10.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Return to the Movie House home page