If the tagline for the new documentary The Lost Key — “The universal secret of Jewish sexuality revealed” — makes you squeamish, it’s because Jews have been fetishized and objectified using the myth of their sexual voracity for thousands of years.
If the tagline also makes you thirsty, it’s because nearly all of us want better sex and closer relationships, or at least are told we should. At least the filmmakers are Jewish — and in their admirable quest for an understanding of what makes good sex and relationships, they’ve created a mightily silly but occasionally insightful, and certainly entertaining, film.
The focal point is Rabbi Manis Friedman, a biblical scholar who sits like a jovial uncle behind his long wooden desk, dispensing wisdom to couples seeking meaning and connection. The couples sit snugly together, reflecting on their struggles toward intimacy and the ways in which kabbalistic teachings have helped them. Most interesting, however, are the interviews with Orthodox women, known as rabbanit, who are married to male rabbis. These women’s commentaries are more substantive and nuanced than many of the couples interviewed, who turned toward religion later in life — and more believable because they speak alone, away from their partners.
But complication is present throughout the film, if sometimes glossed over. Despite a garish visual sensibility that’s overly reliant on curly gold text and beaches at sunset, the filmmakers needle their way into an important question: When sex seems so available and external, what could exist, intimately and unseen, between two people?
This is a film for earnest seekers, or for those with a high tolerance for others’ self-righteousness. Most of us, at one time or another, are both.
The Lost Key
Directed by Ricardo Adler and Manis Friedman
Distributed by International Film Circuit
Opens August 12, Village East Cinema