Knife + Heart
knife + heart | yann gonzalez | vanessa paradis | nicolas maury | kate moran | drama | romance | thriller | france | mexico | giallo | jonathan genet | felix maritaud | khaled alouach | noe hernandez | thibault serviere | bertrand mandico | bastien waultier
Film: Knife + Heart (Un couteau dans le coeur)
Director: Yann Gonzalez
Writer: Yann Gonzalez
Starring: Vanessa Paradis, Nicolas Maury and Kate Moran
This was a film that one of my buddies from social media told me about. It was already on my radar a new film to check out from this year, but his high praise made me move it up my ‘To See List’. Also one of my favorite podcasters really seemed to enjoy it as well. This is actually a neo-giallo film that comes from France and Mexico. I know for purists, that makes this not a gialli, but after seeing this, it most definitely is. The synopsis is Paris, summer 1979. Anne (Vanessa Paradis) is a producer of cheap gay porn. When Lois (Kate Moran), her editor and companion leaves her, she attempts to get her back by making a more ambitious film with the flamboyant Archibald (Nicolas Maury).
Now I should lead off stating that this is definitely an arthouse film. We start with intercutting Loïs as she is editing the latest dallies for a film. This is being seen with the star of that film, Karl (Bastien Waultier), inside of a gay, fetish bar. As he’s dancing with some men, he looks across the room at someone in a leather mask. This person leaves and Karl follows. The two go home together, where Karl is tied up. He’s then killed as the masked person stabs him with a dildo that is actually concealing a knife.
Later that night, Anne calls Loïs and we learn the two were lovers, but they’re broken up. Anne wants her back, but Loïs can’t do it. This upsets her and she is hung on up. We get that Anne has a bit of a drinking problem and she’s highly emotional.
Anne comes to work the next day where we see Archibald directing an adult film with Thierry (Félix Maritaud) and two other actors. Anne goes upstairs were she sees spies on Loïs while she works.
Things take a turn when the police call to inform them of the death of Karl. This though gives Anne an idea for her next movie. Things take a dark turn though, as more of her actors are killed by this masked man. The film that she is making is mimicking the crimes around her and she even has Archibald playing as her. To star in it, she finds Nans (Khaled Alouach) who looks similar to the star of the film we saw earlier, Fouad. He at first declines, but the money is a bit too good. The crew has to decide though to continue to work and put their lives at risk. Anne only seems interesting in getting Loïs back though. Anne tries to find out who the killer is behind it is too late.
Now I’m glad I finally got to see this movie, because there’s a lot to unfold here. The first thing I want to dive into is the time period this is set. I think that is quite interesting having this be at the tail end of the 1970’s, which was really a time for free love. I’m of course looking at this as an American, where we are quite prudish. I think the time period is quite important for my next point though.
That would be homosexuality. Anne and Loïs was a couple that is now broken up. Anne is the director for gay porn with Loïs as the editor. All of the actors we see at first are homosexuals as well. What is interesting is that Nans is straight, but the money is too good for him to not be a part of this film to the point where Anne offers him his weekly salary for just a couple of days of work. This film really does do well at celebrating that there’s nothing wrong with this and I dig that. There’s a dark side to it as well though.
This brings to me to the point that the killer is knocking off the actors for this company. What is interesting about this though is the actual reason the killer is killing them. At the time of the reveal, it is believed that the killer is doing this because of these people’s sexual orientation. We as viewers know though are given a bit more than that. Anne does the normal giallo troupe to explain everything that has happened and it actually makes the killer seem tragic. My buddy said this in his recommendation and it is completely right. I don’t want to spoil this, so you will have to listen to my podcast where I will delve into this a bit more.
Since I’ve already shifted over into this, we do get that troupe of the over explaining to ensure we as the audience know what we just saw. We also get a great looking killer. They wear a black, leather mask and have similar gloves. They use a knife for all of the killings as well. We even get that Anne is having dreams that lead us to the truth. What is interesting about this, she is taking her dreams to make her movie and when she’s told to follow what they’re telling her, that is how we explain who and why the killer is doing what he’s doing. I really dug this and I have to admit, I didn’t predict the killer which is something that I grade on these types of films.
That will take me to the pacing here. I do think that his runs a tad bit long. It comes in around 105 minutes. I don’t want to say I got bored here, because I think everything that we see was needed. We get introduced to our characters and that first death within the opening 10 minutes. From there we build the tension as things go down. It keeps with the giallo sub-genre with Anne, not being a cop, being the one to solve what is going on here. I thought we got the kills at a good interval, ramping up that tension to a satisfying conclusion in a movie theater. As I said, I didn’t predict the killer so I did enjoy that as well.
As for the acting, I thought that it was good across the board. Paradis I thought was solid as the lead here. We see that she is unstable and has a drinking problem throughout. I unfortunately connected with her in that I’ve had an ex-girlfriend break up with me and I’ve done everything that I can to get her back. We don’t really get a lot of growth from her aside from the ending is trying to say she is at peace with everything, at least that’s how I interpreted it. Maury I thought was solid in his performance. Same goes for Moran, Jonathan Genet, Maritaud, Alouach and the rest of the cast were all solid.
The effects were really good as well. I thought the weapon was a bit much, but it actually fits so well with this film and the motif of homosexuality. What I also like is that it keeps men and women on the table as possible killers. The blood we get looks good and the wounds do as well. We get a few of them so that is solid as well. I also think that Gonzalez shot the hell out of this film. It looks beautiful. I like that the dream sequences are inverted in color. This hides certain things from us as the audience while still giving us a bit of the back-story. The film that Anne is shooting also has an odd dreamlike feel to it. The cinematography here is definitely on point.
That takes me to the last thing to cover which is the soundtrack. I think that M83 did a solid job. It gives that feel that we’re back in the 70’s, especially in the club scenes. There does seem to be long stretches where there isn’t a score, but that does work in building tension. I don’t think this will be a soundtrack I will listen to often. I do think that it works for what they needed here for sure.
Now with that said, I’m so glad I didn’t sleep on this film any longer. I think that this is a beautiful looking neo-giallo film that’s not from Italy. It has a taboo subject that is socially relevant now and placing it back into the time period they did definitely works. The acting is solid across the board with Paradis really doing a great job as our lead. She’s such a broken character in is helped to put it back together with this tragedy around her. I think the look of the killer is great, the kills are pretty solid and I think that it is mystery that I didn’t find predictable. The soundtrack fits for what was needed and I really dug this overall. I will say that if you have issues with homosexuality, I don’t think you will enjoy this, as we get to see a lot of it on screen and that is the crux of the story. If you’re an adult and enjoy films with an arthouse flair, give this a viewing especially giallo fans.
My Rating: 9 out of 10