Most movies can’t be—or rather don’t attempt to be more than one thing. For example, a love story is usually a love story; a horror movie is usually a horror movie, etc. There are exceptions to this, especially more on the outer edges of independent and foreign cinema. Knife+Heart is one of those exceptions. It’s a love story within a murder mystery within a horror story within a gay porn film. Yes, that is what I said, and it’s about the best way my mind could compartmentalize it.
I am in love with this movie. Set in 1979 Paris, France, there are retro-futuristic vibes ala A Clockwork Orange and Drive for days. The soundtrack by one of my absolute favorite electro projects, M83, is incredible. The costume design (Camille Champenois) couldn’t have been better, and the production design (Sidney Dubois, and set-designer Damien Rondeau) took you to what I imagine late 70s Paris would be.
“Anne has always had trouble with alcohol and Lois…couldn’t take it anymore. She agrees to stay on and work with Anne on one last film…”
I’m hesitant to try to tell anyone what this film is actually about, because to me, thematically and philosophically, it’s about EVERYTHING. We don’t have time to talk about everything, so I’ll attempt to condense Knife+Heart to some key points. The crux of the whole film, the axis on which it spins, is heartbreak and loss. Porn producer Anne Parèze has had success making cheap films for porno theaters for years. Her editor Lois McKenna (Anne Moran) is also the love of her life. They’ve been together on-and-off for ten years. Anne has always had trouble with alcohol and Lois reached a point where she couldn’t take it anymore. She agrees to stay on and work with Anne on one last film but says she won’t be with her romantically anymore.
Before we even discover Anne and Lois’ relationship, a young gay man is dancing at a nightclub. A man in an incredibly creepy mask is watching him. He ends up going to a bedroom with the man and murdered by a VERY INTERESTING weapon. Later, we find out that the man who was killed at the beginning of the film was one of Anne’s actors, Karl (Bastien Vaultier). Anne had a dream that was very traumatic about a death as the murder occurred. Anne then decides for whatever reason, to make a pornographic film about the murder(s) (there are many), with her production partner, Archibald Langevin (Nicolas Maury). So we find ourselves in a movie-within-a-movie movie as well, which are some of my absolute favorites which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before.
“…a raunchy time capsule wrapped in the most tender blanket of romance.”
Director Yann Gonzalez clearly has a love for 70s and 80s horror/exploitation films. There are touches of Fulci, Argento, the original Maniac, Cruising, and Jess Franco to the millionth degree. It feels like a raunchy time capsule wrapped in the most tender blanket of romance. I am absolutely obsessed with this film, and I am so lucky to have seen it. I have a feeling it will be in limited release, due to a lot of semi-pornographic imagery and the nature of the weapon I spoke of before, which is hilarious and ingenious. Vanessa Paradis is tragic as a heartbroken alcoholic, and Nicolas Maury is wonderful as the comic relief that is definitely needed in parts throughout what can be a somewhat depressing movie (hey it’s French).
I highly suggest seeking out Knife+Heart if you like 70s & 80s B-movie and exploitation films. This was a spot-on homage to the beloved genre. It’s hilarious and haunting and genuinely beautiful, an ambitious film that the more prudish amongst us will be squirming in their seats during. So this is definitely not something to go see with your parents, regardless of your and their ages. That being said, I send you out into the wild queer yonder to discover this rare gem.
Knife+Heart (2019). Directed by Yann Gonzalez. Written by Yann Gonzalez and Cristiano Mangione. Starring Vanessa Paradis, Kate Moran, Nicolas Maury, Jonatan Genet, Khaled Alouach, Félix Maritaud.
10 out of 10 stars.