Greetings again from the darkness. Novelist Jurichiro Tanizaki was nominated for Nobel in Literature, and is one of the more revered modern era writers from Japan. His 1955 novel “Kagi” is the source for this direct-to-video effort from director Jefery Levy, as well as a 1983 film version from Italian director Tinto Brass. Mr. Levy’s production is some sort of experimental film approach that employs the LSD effect utilized by so many movies … only this one isn’t based in the 1960’s and the trippy drug plays absolutely no role here.
Jack (David Arquette) and Ida (Bai Ling) have been married 16 years, and have for the most part, ceased to communicate. This void especially bothers Jack as it pertains to their sex life. He is so focused on this aspect that he commits to writing down all his feelings on this topic in his diary. We learn this because he tells us. Narration is key to the film … well that and the headache-inducing strobe edits and combination lighting-color-texture used to bring the diary entries to life.
One day Jack leaves the key to his desk drawer out so that Ida has full access to his diary, and his deepest thoughts. She refuses to read it, and instead decides to start her own diary. These two are not so creative when it comes to tormenting each other … though they go to great lengths to avoid a conversation.
Somehow, despite the lack of a plot, the obnoxious strobe-lighting, the never-ending nudity, and the droning narration, Bai Ling manages to stand out in her role. For one thing, she is an infinitely better narrator than Mr. Arquette, but more importantly, she seizes the few opportunities to bring some depth and humanity to her character.
It’s a story of frustration, obsession, questionable sexual habits, and the price paid for an absence of communication. The dreamlike visuals and the incessant narration never allow us to really connect with either character … even with the Charlie Chaplin bits performed by Ms. Ling. The film might be worth exploring from a technical aspect, but the less-than-graceful translation of the novel makes this a tough one to watch, or even to understand who its audience might be.
watch the trailer: