French film “Knife+Heart” is a cheerfully gaudy and goofy mix of cheap gay porn flicks and campy giallo horror movies of the 1970s. Although it is a bit shame that the movie does not try to be something more than a mere pastiche of its two different genres, the movie is still fairly amusing for moods and details to be savored and appreciated, and it is actually poignant at times even though it frequently swings around different emotional modes with sheer preposterousness.
Set in the summer of 1979, the movie mainly revolves around Anne (Vanessa Paradis), a female movie producer who has made several cheap gay porn flicks along with her small but reliable cast and crew members for many years. Around the beginning of the film, we see a part of her latest product, and its nostalgic quality reminds us that there was a time when lots of cheap pornography films were shot on 16mm film and then released in a certain type of movie theaters.
It looks like Anne will get another modest success through this latest product of hers, but she has been feeling quite bad and depressed since her recent breakup with Lois (Kate Moran), who has been her lover and also worked as the editor of her gay porn flicks. While Lois firmly sticks to her professionalism, Anne cannot help but miss being with Lois, and everyone around her on the set is understandably concerned even though Anne tries to keep her appearance straight in front of her cast and crew members including Archibald (Nicolas Maury), a flamboyant dude who has frequently worked in front of the camera several times besides being your average gay friend for Anne.
And then there comes a very bad news. One of those good-looking actors working for Anne was brutally murdered, and Anne is annoyed when she has to meet and then talk to a couple of cops at a local police station, but that does not stop her at all from getting some inspiration for what she and her cast and crew members will shoot next. I will not go into details here for not spoiling your fun, and I must tell you that I was quite tickled by the demonstration of a rather outrageous typing method. Compared to what I saw from a number of modern gay porn flicks which are mostly concerned about sex and body parts, this feels, uh, more imaginative in my humble opinion.
Of course, another actor working for Anne gets killed not long after that, and the mood accordingly becomes a lot more nervous on the set, so Anne eventually decides to delve into the case for herself, though the police are not so cooperative to say the least and her mind is frequently occupied with getting Lois back in her arms. Thanks to one seemingly insubstantial clue, she gets closer to the identity of the killer, and that eventually prompts her to make another product whose making will definitely attracts the attention of the killer.
Anyway, we already know how the killer in question looks. In addition to wearing a black mask and dark clothes, this figure also wears a pair of black gloves just like many of those homicidal maniacs in giallo horror films, and the movie gives us some twisted fun through an outrageously Freudian murder weapon used by this figure.
Now everything seems to be set for more thrill and excitement, but the screenplay by director Yann Gonzalez and his co-writer Cristiano Mangione leisurely strolls along the plot instead while occasionally providing us stylish glimpses into a small world inhabited by Anne and other characters in the film. We are introduced to various sexual minority figures who are free and happy as being themselves, and that surely reminds us of how things were lively and exciting for people like them before the era of AIDS began in the very next decade.
Although it starts to stumble as its plot becomes more implausible and preposterous, the movie does not lose its sense of fun at least, and we are subsequently served with two main sequences which are engaging in each own way. While the sequence unfolded at Anne’s workplace is bold and overblown as required, the other one unfolded at a squalid movie theater where Anne’s latest product is shown to a number of naughty audiences is somehow touching at times, and the movie comes to show affection to its main characters in a way not so far from François Truffaut’s “Day for Night“ (1974), which is one of the greatest movies about filmmaking.
The main cast members of the film mostly play straight on the screen as required, and they surely have some fun with that behind their back. As the center of the film, Vanessa Paradis gives a solid performance balanced well between campiness and seriousness, and Kate Moran is a solid emotional counterpart to Paradis. In case of the other main cast members including Nicolas Maury, Félix Maritaud, and Khaled Alouach, they imbue their broad but colorful supporting characters with life and personality, and I particularly enjoyed Maury’s scene-stealing supporting performance.
Although it may not be for everyone considering its story subjects and elements, “Knife+Heart” is a competent genre piece packed with style and mood, and you will be entertained especially if you are familiar with what it tries to emulate. Yes, it could be more fun and exciting, but it did its job as well as intended, so I will not grumble for now.