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A perverse patriarch embroils his entire family in a web of sexual manipulation in Kon Ichikawa's elegantly wicked comedy about pornography, voyeurism and murder.
"Perverse in the best sense of the word. . . . I don't think I have ever seen a movie that gave such a feeling of flesh" (Pauline Kael). Ichikawa's elegantly wicked comedy about pornography, voyeurism, and murder, based on Junichiro Tanizaki's famous novel The Key (the film's original Japanese title), was denied a censors' certificate in Britain and ran into censorship problems in several places. An old man involves his entire family in his desperate attempts to restore his virility, arranging sexual trysts between various members so that he can spy on them, and asking his son-in-law (Tatsuya Nakadai) to develop pornographic pictures the senior has taken of his wife. The old man's elaborate plans backfire when his meek, obedient wife (Machiko Kyo, having a high old time) seizes the opportunity to excite him into a life-threatening ecstasy. "A singular and memorable movie . . . the great Machiko Kyo is a particular standout as the wife" (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader); "one of [Ichikawa's] most striking films" (Elliott Stein, The Village Voice).