Director: Tinto Brass
Cast: Frank Finlay, Stefania Sandrelli and Franco Branciaroll
Distributor: Arrow Video
Release date: 20th May 2013
The first time I was aware of Tinto Brass was browsing through the ‘world cinema’ section in Canterbury HMV and stumbling across the DVD case for Frivolous Lola. It featured a young woman on a bike, with her red dressed hitched to expose her buttocks. It was funny. Flicking through the other titles in the Tinto Brass section it was immediately obvious that all the other DVD covers featured women with dresses hitched and buttocks bare. I never saw any of the films but I felt I had a good grasp of what to expect.
In The Key, Stefania Sandrelli plays Teresa Rolfe, a repressed woman on the cusp of middle age, married to a more sexual open but slighter older gent (Frank Finlay) who lacks the pre-requisite staying power to fulfil his own particular fancies. Unable to address the problem directly they write about their sexual fantasies in journals, which they leave around, knowing that their partner will read in secret and a sexual awakening ensues.
On a casual glance you might be fooled into thinking this is high-brow Euro-drama. The WW2 setting, an upper middle class milieu and a Venetian backdrop to the story suggest something akin to Thomas Mann but stick with it for a while and A Room With A View becomes simply The Room with a red triangle.
If you’re a fan of Italian horror there are a few aesthetic similarities, the film stock is the same, the reds are just as vivid and there’s an unhealthy pre-occupation with slow zooms. There are also the familiar lip synch issues as the film has been shot partially in English, partially in Italian and mixed well in neither language. The script is terrible. In a hokey horror film the imperfections are endearing, in a melodrama it’s just bad film making.
The nudity in the film seems naïve in the internet age, like children playing show me yours and I’ll show you mine. It isn’t really remotely sensual or titillating. The nudity is clinically gynaecological or scatological. There’s a fixation with the functionality of the sex organs, whether Teresa squatting to piss in the street or giving herself a wash, post coitus. It’s an unusually frank and honest depiction but it’s never erotic.
If you were feeling charitable you could call The Key a product of its time but what you are left with is a film that fails on a story level and as erotica. It is amusing for a short while for the wrong reasons, but to get through the full 110 minutes is more than a chore.
Rating: 2 stars