Knife+Heart: Unapologetically trashy gay porn thriller goes the full De Palma

Review: Strap yourselves in, because this is unbridled, fever-pitch cinema

Vanessa Paradis (C) in ‘Knife+Heart’

Film Title: Knife+Heart

Director: Yann Gonzalez

Starring: Vanessa Paradis, Nicolas Maury, Kate Moran, Jonathan Genet, Khaled Alouach, Félix Maritaud, Noé Hernández

Genre: Fantasy

Running Time: 102 min

Wed, Jul 3, 2019, 05:00

   

We were saddened this week to read Paul Schrader’s description of fellow stalwart director Brian De Palma as “trite and artistically weak”. De Palma has yet to produce a late-career flourish of the same calibre as Schrader’s First Reformed, but the director behind Carrie, Dressed to Kill, and Blow Out (to name personal favourites) has few peers when it comes to post-Hitchcockian voyeurism. 

Until now. Strap yourselves in. Writer-director Yann Gonzalez goes the full De Palma with this delirious magic giallo set against the world of 1970s gay porn. The spirit of De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise casts a long, camp shadow.

Vanessa Paradis is brittle, unpredictable softcore auteur Anne Pareze, a penny-pinching boss, an on-set tyrant, and a mooning ex-lover who obsesses over her film editor Loïs, played by Kate Moran.  

She is not as devastated as the dedicated works-for-free fluffer – played by Pierre Pirol, and known as the “Mouth of Gold” – when her staff start getting bumped off by a mysterious grotesque with a gimp suit and a switchblade-dildo.

She starts (hilariously) incorporating her encounters with investigating officers into the “dramatic” scenes in her films. One encounter with the law turns up a vital clue: a feather belonging to a cryptozoological blind bird that lives in a remote, fairytale forest. Anne investigates and, with the help of an enigmatic local guide played by Romane Bohringer, she discovers a young man’s grave and the bizarre tale of a devastating blaze.

Where does this tie in with the playful porn and the strange picnic scene that, in common with every other sequence, may be some class of erotic fantasia? Is the murderer a manifestation of Anne’s own repressed desires or a foreshadowing of the disease that will soon devastate this community? Who knows? 

Gonzalez, who co-wrote the film with Cristiano Mangione, is having far too much fun with this lurid soap opera to trouble us with puny rational explanation. This is proper, unbridled, fever-pitch cinema. In common with its heroine (or anti-heroine), it’s grand, unapologetic and more than a little trashy.

Opens on July 5th