Take the 1970s gay porn industry, cross it with a slasher film, mix in a crime mystery with a sprinkling of french artistry, and the end result is the truly unique Knife and Heart. This is a film that really shouldn’t work, but does. Creating a really enjoyable, deliciously dark and humorous tale that feels completely unique.
Set in Paris during the height of the late 70s low budget gay porn industry. Porn auteur Anne (Vanessa Paradis) is a matriarchal creative who persuades amateur men from everyday locations such as building sites to perform in her films. Anne offers the men solid income for films that incorporate gay sex into overblown, tongue in cheek stories that are primarily shown in xxx cinemas.
When her stars begin to suffer horrific deaths, Anne (Paradis) is led on journey of discovery as the police’s inability and unwillingness to catch the killer leads her to take matters into her own hands.
Yann Gonzalez delivers a film that not only parodies gay porn and slasher horror but also plays homage to both mediums while twisting the mainstream heterosexuality of horror formats into a gay world. The end result is an intoxicating mix of styles that wears its queer label loud and proud from beginning to end.
This is not a film designed to offer jumps or tension, instead delivering striking visual imagery, humour and classically styled horror deaths with deliciously dark queer twists. Gonzalez plays with light and darkness alongside bold reds and blues in his cinematography, mixing striking visuals with immaculate sound design (M83) to draw the audience into a world that often feels like something from fantasy and folklore. There are moments when Knife and Heart feels like a hyper stylised Hammer Horror, and others where it plays to the early days of the slasher film; a true homage to a multi layered genre of horror filmmaking.
Its soft core sex, parodies and plays homage to the early x rated cinema films of the 70s. Where smoke and mirrors alongside the beauty of the male body was often sufficient entertainment for men making clandestine trips to seedy theatres. There is a delightful homage to An American Werewolf in London, taking a core part of American Werewolf’s theatre scenes while replacing the inherent heterosexuality of the scenes with queer identity; cleverly twisting the mainstream heterosexual imagery of horror into gay themes.
There are also deep rooted messages among the blood, gore, humour and sex, playing with themes of sexual reppression, lost love and a society that denies sexual freedom, replacing it with violence and vengeance. The films time dated stamp of a world pre the HIV/AIDS epidemic also carries stark messages on sex and freedom versus ostracism and death.
Knife and Heart is a truly unique, beautifully structured and gloriously queer mash up of genres and themes. With cutting humour, engaging performances and a killer design, this is a darkly delicious piece of fantasy/horror that wears its queer colours with pride.
Country: France 🇫🇷
Director: Yann Gonzalez