Written and directed by Yann Gonzalez (co-writer Cristiano Mangione)
Starring Vanessa Paradis, Kate Moran, and Nicolas Maury
Running time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
by Anthony Glassman
Once upon a time, famed French porn director Jean-Daniel Cadinot and American cinema quasi-legend William Friedkin decided to work together on a picture. Or Bruce LaBruce decided to do a murder thriller but simulate the sex instead of really having people schtup on camera.
These are probably the two easiest ways to describe Yann Gonzalez' Knife+Heart, known in the original French as Un Couteau dans la Coeur. You could probably just call it Someone Is Killing the Twink Porn Stars of Paris, and it would work as well.
The setting is Paris in 1979, which explains a lot if you miss the bit where it gives the date. Otherwise, where the hell were all those horrible mustaches coming from? It's not Williamsburg 2019, after all. Anne, a successful director of gay male porn but tragically lovelorn lesbian, wraps up her latest production, only to have one of the stars be murdered brutally with a switchblade dildo.
The police are on the case, but it's the 1970s in France, and there's still quite a bit of homophobia amongst les gendarmes, so Anne doesn't think they're doing all they can with it. Then, to make matters worse, a second actor is killed. Then a third. What is a porn director to do?
While descending into the mystery of the gruesome deaths, Anne also tries to woo back her editor and now ex-girlfriend Lois, who runs hot and cold so much that someone should really call a plumber to check on that water heater.
It's a loving look at the porn world couched in a semi-believable thriller with a few comic elements thrown in. The film gets more serious as it goes on, and as Anne discovers the tragedy behind the murders, it becomes a not even thinly-veiled statement on homophobia spurring more violence, causing even its victims to become monsters. Those who are abused, after all, often go on to abuse others, that damning cycle of violence.
Vanessa Paradis as Anne metamorphoses from a drunken psychopath into a driven and caring mother figure, but she is also the only character in the film with an actual personal arc. The porn stars in the film are all “legitimate” actors, and look for all the world like the young men the aforementioned Cadinot cast in his films. Even the ones with the mustaches are handsome and delicious. Although, of course, they'd look better WITHOUT THE DAMNED STUPID MUSTACHES. Fucking hipsters.
Gonzalez' brother Anthony, operating as the primary member of the electronic group M83, provides original music for the film, and other songs from the time period are used, although one questions the veracity of some of the costumes. At least it's better than the magnetic stripe on the back of Nikki Sixx's drivers license in The Dirt.
Yann Gonzalez seems a firm hand to steer the ship of queer cinema. It's a good film, a solid film. One would not necessarily attribute “greatness” to it, in the sense of a critic saying a film is “great,” but it is thoroughly enjoyable. Whether it was deserving of a Palme D'Or nomination at Cannes is not for me to say, but if they gave out Academy Awards for grackles, this film's feathery co-star would have been a dead cert.