The Key (1983)

Frank Finlay, Stefania Sandrelli, Franco Branciaroli, Barbara Cupisti,
In 1940s Venice, after twenty years of marriage, a Professor and his younger wife witness the passion wane. Now, all that remains is to confess the rousing thoughts to an elaborate diary hoping to break free from ties and...
  • 5.4 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Jun'ichirô Tanizaki, Writer:
  • Tinto Brass, Director:
  • Giovanni Bertolucci, Producer:

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/ 10

This DVD had been calling out to me from the cult section of my localvideostore for about two months before I rented it. The cover art of Stefaniaprojects an allure that is only the begining of a very profoundexperience.Brass manages to create a film that doesn't make some epic statement oflove, society and relationships. Instead he presents a rather odd anderotic situation that makes you think and feel (in various ways) thegravityof the characters situations. The film is also not afraid to come accrossas a little silly at times.

Don't be mistaken, this is first and foremost and erotic movie, but itmanages something masterful in that genre. Tinto Brass has constructed avery nice platform for sensual expression in this film. I wouldn't adviseseeing it with your local bible study group, but it isn't frat boy tissueparty material either. If you are open to nudity and sensuality thiscouldbe just the movie to share with your partner on a night alone together.Thesets and the actors are well done, but you still get to see plenty of sex.Tinto's Key is the perfect movie to potentially unlock those who are "onethe fence" when it comes to erotic cinema.

/ 10

La Chiave (1983) is Brass' only masterpiece,Mrs. Sandrelli's mostinteresting role,and a peak of the European "trash films" of the '80s.Ihave seen this flick 4 times,and I found it excellent.Here,Brass is howhe knows to be:shameless, shocking,clandestine, lascivious, tasty,scandalous, voluptuary,lustful,Nothingarian,misogynist at the basestlevel,lubricious;yes,indeed,quite a lot of things to enjoy.Brass isextremely skilled in exploiting his actresses' physical endowments.

"La Chiave" is an anecdote of bourgeois sexuality during WW2,and astudy in Animality;in fact,Brass' coldness and detachment shows notrace of sympathy for his characters,hence the movie'snaturalism.("Miranda" brings on screen a rustic debauchery during thesame WW2,while "L'Uomo ..." is again a bourgeois adventure,but set innowadays).WW2 is only an epic convention,because it gives a certainsense of exciting and violent trepidation and brutality anddecrepitude,an epic device of the nihilist aestheticism(Pasolini,Bertolucci,Brass).Brass used WW2 as a narrative background inhis Teresa Ann Savoy show,Salon Kitty (1976);in his Stefania Sandrellishow,La Chiave (1983) ;in his Serena Grandi show,Miranda (1985);in hisAnna Galiena show,Senso '45 (2002).Under the pretext of unmasking thisFascist epoch,it is obvious that these directors pretty much indulgedin the world they described.(The same device,of a shattering andtotalitarian epoch,was exploited the same way in some Romanian films ofthe '90s,using the Bolshevick era of the '50s as a background forsexual frolics).

Stefania Sandrelli was 37 years in this movie,and lucent,slick,slightlyadipose,of a very concrete and lustybeauty,luscious,soft-spoken,lurid,but also somehow lubberly.Thepassionless display of flesh expresses Brass' proclivity for an almostclinical and documentary examination of the nakedness.With thismovie,Mrs. Sandrelli became one of the "Brass women".No director wasashamed to undress Mrs. Sandrelli (Bernardo Bertolucci in IlConformista,1970; Bigas Luna in Jamón, Jamón,1992;Lina Wertmüller inNinfa Plebea,1996).She posed nude even as an adolescent,I know apiquant picture with the naked teen-ager Sandrelli.

Barbara Cupisti is a suave and distinguished beauty.

There is a particular density of the naked flesh,and of the settingsalso.Brass displays much gusto;his style's plastic quality isextraordinary ."La Chiave" is written by Brass more like a chapter ofethology,and of sexual behaviors.

There are also other exciting Brass movies.Miranda (1985) (with SerenaGrandi) is almost as good as La Chiave (1983),though in a differentregister,and L'Uomo Che Guarda (1994) (with Katarina Vasilissa,CristinaGaravaglia )is also a fine,thrilling show."Miranda" is a little morecheerful then "La Chiave",and more picturesque as narration,its sexualcontent is also more erratic (though to see Mrs. Sandrelli asleep beingtaken advantage of,is no cheap fun either).All these 3 movies are frankand straight.Brass' choice of the actresses is always exquisite.I haveseen a photo representing Mrs. Sandrelli while her breast is fondled,orrather felt by Brass;the actress laughs wildly and she seems to be mucholder than in "La Chiave"; this gallant scene looks like taking placein a very public space.

While "La Chiave",Miranda (1985),L' Uomo Che Guarda (1994) showderisively woman's depravity,and warm it up, with malice andirony,Senso '45 (2002) marks a decline;it tries to depict woman'slove,and fails.Brass' shamelessness lost all its charm and became thesheer Prosaism of Senso '45 (2002) (a banal and conventional,tastelessadultery,moreover inverting Brass' opinion about women;this man waslibidinous,base, trenchant and lascivious,and turned sentimental andemotional).The only good thing about "Senso" is Mrs. Erika Savastani 'ssupporting role as "Emilietta" .

"La Chiave" is one in a series of medallions of beautifulwomen,astounding studies of women,on a par with Miranda (1985),AndreaBarzini's Desiderando Giulia (1985),Andrea Bianchi's Dolce Pelle DiAngela (1987),Spiando Marina (1992),L'Uomo Che Guarda (1994),Malèna(2000) ,etc..In the unconventional erotica,Brass' equals are the farless famous Andrea Barzini (the author of the best Serena Grandishow,made when she was 27 years),Andrea Bianchi,the author of theunderrated Dolce Pelle Di Angela (1987).These masterpieces,signed byBianchi and Barzini,and other wonderful Deborah Caprioglio and SerenaGrandi shows could be seen in Romanian movie theaters 13 years ago.

Many are too preoccupied with the film's sexual content,to may be ableto notice the exceptional visual beauty.

If you have reasons to like Mrs. Sandrelli others than this movie,then"La Chiave" will be a treat.

7/10 / 10

As usual with Brass, this is a very classy sex film, with Hollywood-classproduction values. (This, I might add, is a rare exception, not the rule,among other sex-film makers. Radley Metzger is the only other director Icanthink of offhand whose sex films invariably have great productionvalues.).Stefania Sandrelli is an absolutely stunning woman, with a gorgeouslyfilled-out body, unlike the skinny-jinnies that many other directors arefond of. The film is set in Venice in 1940 and the locales are beautiful,while at the same time focusing on a "native's Venice," rather than thefewover-photographed canals and churches one generally sees.

But the people who did the U.S. version DVD are incompetents,unfortunately.This is only the second DVD that I have watched where thebrightness/contrast were so badly mangled in making the transfer that thefilm is unwatchable until one moves his controls way off theirISF-calibrated positions. To be precise, it is the second-worst. Theworsthas been the total butchering of Antonioni's "La Notte", where evenmovingthe controls to their limit cannot produce a decent picture.

8/10 / 10

This is a most accomplished and underrated film from Tinto Brass. Thereare several reasons why the very mention of the director's name willcause many to stop reading right now. His association with Caligula andSalon Kitty and of course his later joyfully, and uncompromisinglyerotic later works do not suggest this might be a 'serious' film maker.However, for me, the most difficult aspect was coming to terms with thefact that this has been transposed from the writer, JunichiroTanizaki's Japanese homeland to a wintry Venice. The whole notion of acouple each keeping a sexual diary (locked up but knowingly madeavailable) as a way of communicating their hopes and desires is so notthe way we consider Italians likely to behave. But, never mind, thefilm is great enough to overcome this and in no time I was under thespell of the beautiful and prestigious actress, Stefania Sandrelli andto a lesser extent by Frank Finlay. I should also clarify the pointthat this fairly explicit film is about eroticism and not in the mainerotic itself. Mr Brass does, of course, indulge himself quite a fewlingering shots of certain parts of Sandrelli's anatomy but I'm surenobody would grudge him that, certainly not I.

/ 10

A main female character sums up this pile of narrative nonsense at theconclusion of the film saying something like, "I was faithful by beingunfaithful." Meaning she was compliant in her husband's wishes for her tolink up with their son-in-law so her horny husband could become sexuallyexcited by watching her, thus sparking their marriage alive again. Setagainst Mussolini's rise to power in 1940s Italy, I suppose auteur TintoBrass is trying to make some haughty comment on how the Italian populace ofthe time, repressed by Catholic guilt, succumbed to Il Duce's desire forthem to fall faithfully in line with Italian pride and become unfaithfulfrom the moral direction of the Church. Who knows really, because Brass ismore concerned with Stefania Sandrelli's derriere than he is aboutpolitical/spiritual ambivalence.

Alas, Mr. Brass' focus on lead actress Sandrelli's bottom is the only themeyou're bound to come away with after viewing an hour and 50 minutes of thissoft-core cornfest. British thesp Frank Finlay takes a leap at a starringrole by heading south to Italy and being forced to look every bit the dirtyold man under the meticulous kink direction by Brass. As the premature, ifyou will, hubby in this standard menage a trois, he can only last a matterof seconds in the sack with his much younger wife, played by the suitablystunning Sandrelli. It is only when he becomes jealous over his wife'sattentions to his son-in-law, played with robot-amateur woodenness byFrancoBranciaroli, that Finlay becomes excited enough to maintain another kind ofwoodenness. By drugging his wife into a fitful slumber and picture-posingher in various open positions for photo-ops, Frank cements our disgustedfeeling that we are somehow watching the actual sad home life of theItalianPinto, Tinto.

While nowhere near as decadent as "Caligula," "La Chiave" has that movie'sability to make you want to take a cleansing shower afterwards to wash itsdepressing, sleazy drivel off your conscience. Once we learn the designsofFinlay's ho-hum plan, in the first 20 minutes, all we're left with iscountless meandering soft-focus shots of Sandrelli and Branciarolistrollingaround Venice, fornicating in their hideaway lair, and Finlay foppishlysniffing after her like a pheremone-obsessed hounddog.

The fast-forward button won't help you on this one. You'll be woefullybuzzing through a flick that has no worthwhile stopping point. My rating:0out of ****.