“Knife + Heart” is a surrealistic and zany whodunit slasher inspired by the Italian giallo genre and directed by French director Yann Gonzalez. This is his first film in the official selection. In 2013 he presented “Les Rencontres D’Après Minuit” at Critics Week, one of the parallel sections at the Cannes Festival. “Knife+Heart” is a candidate for a Palme D’Or.
Did you know? Anthony Gonzalez, one half of L.A.-based French band M83, is the brother of Yann Gonzalez.
In this uneven film (in the second half the narrative starts meandering and becomes disjointed) Anne (played by Vanessa Paradis) is a fortysomething owner of an adult film production company in Paris. It’s the seventies. In a scene in the beginning of the film, she runs into a phone booth and tries to convince her lover, her negative cutter, to take her back. As her pleas goes unanswered, she takes to the bottle with increasing fervor.
Meanwhile, a handsome gay actor from her stable is savagely murdered by a masked murder. He had first set out to tie him up, face down, for an epic bout of S&M-inspired lovemaking. As he goes to penetrate our young Adonis with a seriously oversize black dildo, a blade pops out instead (nifty little utensil), and he stabs the boy multiple times in the rectum. Not to worry, however: fortunately Gonzalez isn’t interested in showing too much detail, whether gore-related or having to do with gay sex, in this film.
Other murders follow, making the film crew and the actors ever more nervous. Who is this masked killer?
“Knife” not lacking in the tongue-in-cheek department, alternates between playful comedy and trashy grandiose drama. The always-hilarious Nicolas Maury ( “Call my agent”) delivers acidic wisecracks and laser-sharp wit with his usual aplomb. His Archibald is an adult film director and actor who occasionally will jump into the scenes he’s directing, just to be, ho-hum, helpful). Adding to the cast of characters is a middle-aged, fatty fluffer nicknamed “Bouche D’Or” (“Golden mouth”). Can we agree that just about any script with a middle-aged fluffer named “Bouche D’Or” in it deserves to be made into a movie?
After more murders of gay actors come to light, instead of shutting down operations in fear Anne names their upcoming film “Homocidal.” After she travels outside Paris, some surprising details will emerge, shedding some light on the murder mystery.
Gonzalez cuts the film with sequences shot in negative photography for effect, a portend of bad events. A black crow with strange, glistening white eyes makes an occasional appearance, too, landing on someone, as if to choose who the next victim will be.
In spite of a second half in which the story loses its way a little, “Knife+Heart” is a welcome addition to the official selection this year. It’s refreshing to be able to watch a movie that pokes fun at itself and isn’t yet another platform for social change or or political posturing, or sacrificing itself for the sake of some militancy or other. “Knife + Young” is imperfect, and riddled with plenty of kitsch imagery and B-movie splendor. But what a great time!