Tag Archives: Kate Moran

CAPSULE: KNIFE + HEART (2018)

Un couteau dans le coeur

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Vanessa Paradis, , , Jonathan Genet

PLOT: A troubled director tries to figure out who’s killing off the actors in her gay porn troupe.

Still from knife + heart (2018)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Although there are a few odd touches, Knife + Heart essentially rehashes familiar old giallo territory, but with a new queer slant.

COMMENTS: Knife + Heart (the French title translates to the more euphonious A Knife in the Heart) is basically a modern, queer giallo that plays out in the unique setting of the 1970s French gay porn industry. Gruesomely, it features a killer who strikes with a knife sheathed in a dildo. The protagonist is Anne, an alcoholic lesbian still hopelessly in love with Lois, her film editor, long after the latter has rejected her for her wine-sodden unpredictability. When the cast and crew of her latest pornographic opus start turning up dead, Anne develops a new obsession. She makes a tasteless porno adaptation of the real life crimes, including an interrogation scene that echoes her actual interview with the police, but this time with typewriter boffing. (After considering a couple of titles, she settles on Homocidal.) An accidentally discovered clue leads her to a remote French village where a mysterious bird is said to live, and then indirectly to the actual killer.

Knife + Heart stays true to the giallo form, with fetishistic shots of phallic knives in black-gloved hands and an obvious tribute to Suspiria’s colorful rainstorm driving scene. Ultimately, the solution to the mystery isn’t particularly convincing,—which is also true to the genre. Although there are a few mildly surreal bits—including a surprise bird claw you won’t forget—the main novelty here is the transposition of the erotic locus from the hetero- to the homo-sexual world. The sex is graphic, but not actually hardcore (although it comes close enough to rate this as an 18+ production).

Although Knife + Heart is a stylish and more-than-competent homage, I wondered about the purpose of the whole experiment. It’s an entertaining throwback, but besides queer inclusiveness, it doesn’t add much to the genre. The film has a superficial artiness—check out that post-credits Roman orgy!—that primes you for something deeper than a mere thriller; yet, disappointingly, it never really dives beneath its pretty surface.

This is Yann Gonzalez’s second feature film after 2013’s even more explicitly erotic (and even more surreal) You and the Night [Les Rencontres d’après minuit]. Both films screened at Cannes to generally positive receptions. Americans can catch them on physical media or streaming services (both are on Kanopy). Both are also scored by Yann’s brother Anthony, a popular electronic musician with the band M83.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“It feels like a giallo take on ‘Phantom of the Paradise,’ with heavy influences from ‘Peeping Tom’ and Todd Haynes’ 1991 feature debut, ‘Poison.’ This magical, erotic, disco-tinged horror-thriller is like cinematic candy.”–Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: YOU AND THE NIGHT (2013)

Les Rencontres d’Après Minuit

DIRECTED BY: Yann Gonzalez

FEATURING: , Niels Schneider, , Alain-Fabien Delon, Julie Brémond, Eric Cantona, Fabienne Babe, Béatrice Dalle

PLOT: A couple and their transvestite maid invite the Slut, the Stud, the Teen and the Star to an orgy at their swinging Paris pad.

Still from You and the Night (2013)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s very weird, but it’s also super talky, super French… sadly, too talky and French to be enjoyable.

COMMENTS: You and the Night is one of those European arthouse sex films where people prefer talking about doing it to actually doing it. There’s not even any nudity until the thirty-minute mark, when a bit of male prosthetic business is pulled out as a reward for those who’ve stuck with it for this long. Instead, there is a lot of dialogue along the lines of “always follow the clues you see in dreams… especially when they’re terrifying” and a cross-dressing maid. The setup involves various sexual archetypes arriving at the scheduled orgy, then regaling the other guests with absurdist backstory. For example, in the most memorable flashback “the Stud” explains why he is late; his story starts when he was a six-year old poet and ends with him in a cell in his underwear being whipped by Béatrice Dalle.

About half way through, the structure shifts as we get a much longer fairy tale exposition explaining how our hosts came to be a threesome. This segment, which is the movie’s most interesting digression and might have made a good standalone short, involves a war, eternal vows, and a satanic prayer that must have been a blast for the translator to work on (“oh keeper of the schlong and wretched sepulchers…”). After this high point, however, Night dissolves into a trippy trickle of self-serious surrealism, with disconnected scenes set on a beach, in a cinema, and superimposed over the cosmos.

Visually, the film is geometric, cleanly modern and generally appealing, although Gonzalez loves the blue day-for-night filter a little too much for my tastes. Much better are the storybook mise-en-scene of the middle section, with painted suns and moons glowing over the spare desert and cemetery sets. The music is by an electronic band called M83; the tuneage sounds competent to these ears, but digital aficionados rate it highly. Overall, the languid Night didn’t have a strong enough sense of purpose appeal to me, nor does it strike me as the kind of work that’s notable enough to demand a spot on the List despite my personal lack of enthusiasm. But it’s not terribly offensive in any way, just tedious by the end. I do suspect it will appeal to some of our readers. It’s like a music video director’s conception of how a modern-day collaboration between the Marquis de Sade and Samuel Beckett would play out. If that sounds like a must-see to you, have at it.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…[a] chamber piece of sex, surreality and the absurd, like something by Luis Buñuel or Luigi Pirandello, or a sexed-up version of TS Eliot’s The Cocktail Party.”–Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (contemporaneous)