Review: Knife + Heart
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2018: Shot in his super-original style, Yann Gonzalez’s film is a very sophisticated reinterpretation of the traditional giallo genre, travelling behind the scenes of gay porn cinema
For those who are unfamiliar with You and the Night [+see also:
film profile] – the debut feature film by the very original French director Yann Gonzalez, discovered on the Croisette at the Critic's Week in 2013 – his new film, Knife + Heart [+see also:
film profile], unveiled in competition at the 71st Cannes Film Festival, will have undoubtedly been astonishing (or perplexing, like "a doe between wild beasts"), both in terms of the director's phantasmagorical visual style, and in terms of the film’s plot, which was directly inspired by the giallo genre (mixing the police, horror and erotic genres - and in this case, also the slasher genre) – ultimately creating a big splash in contemporary cinema. By weaving its plot into the world of gay porn cinema by means of a lesbian producer (a hidden alcoholic) dumped by her editor girlfriend after ten passionate years together, the film also offers a reflective dimension, where voyeurism and masks aren’t to be found where you might expect. The film’s crudeness – which is distanced by humour (which is occasionally reminiscent, as a sort of cottage industry version, of Boogie Nights by Paul Thomas Anderson) – sits side-by-side with the mysteries of life, because "when you forget yourself with others, a form of limitless, powerful and voracious love” manifests itself, but "under a tree, during a storm, you risk getting struck by lightning."
The film opens with an explicit nightclub sequence followed by the outline of a breathless sex scene (with chains) that ends in the murder of a handsome nipper, "stabbed several times in the rectum," the police tell Anne (the perfect Vanessa Paradis), whose production company is in the process of filming Anal Fury in the summer of 1979, its umpteenth "shit" film (comments editor Lois played by Kate Moran) who is its producer. Given that the victim was part of a small group of actors managed by jack-of-all-trades, Archibald (Nicolas Maury), and that another murder occurs very soon after, the atmosphere among the actors becomes somewhat tense. But Anne makes the most of the situation, adapting her film (The Homo Killer) before also releasing Evil Spells, meanwhile the killer (very Phantom of the Opera) continues to reap havoc, clues are revealed (a tribute to The Bird with the Crystal Plumage by Dario Argento) and our producer obsessively tries to win Lois back, hunting her down in lesbian nightclubs with a hardened heart, all while realising that behind masks hides self-love, domination and murderous fantasies.
Filmed with excellent set design and a range of captivating colours – dark blue streaked with red, for example – Knife + Heart also knows how to occasionally extract itself from its prediction for a nocturnal world (to enjoy lunch on the grass while reading Garcia Lorca, for example) and enjoys playing with different film formats in both the film itself and the memories it conjures up. The film is simultaneously a portrait of the small world of gay porn, a brilliant baroque show (with a fascinating dream sequence, in particular) and a whodunit film in which a monster roams among us (who? And why?). The film nevertheless creates a certain amount of distance with its tempered emotions, which doesn’t do much to provoke excessive excitement in its viewers, beyond its admirable form.
(Translated from French)
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