In “Knife+Heart,” French filmmaker Yann Gonzalez crafts a bloody, fantastic slasher flick set in the world of gay porn in 1979 Paris. 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.
Vanessa Paradis has never been better. She portrays porn director Anne Parèze, a lesbian nursing a broken heart. Though a train wreck of an alcoholic, she is deeply devoted to her work, creating films that are smutty, beautiful works of art, through which she mediates the events of her life. Anne takes it upon herself to track down a mysterious masked murderer who has been offing her best talent (with a very unique weapon). Bodies drop around her as she works on a new film titled “Homocidal.”
Shot on 35-millimeter and 16-millimeter film, “Knife+Heart” is saturated with streaks and hues of sumptuous reds and blues and set to an electro-pop soundtrack by M83 (Anthony Gonzalez, Yann’s brother, is the band’s primary member). Rooted in queer culture and cinematic history, “Knife+Heart” is irreverent, sexy and scary, its orgasms as cathartic as the tears. But it also rings true to a variety of queer experiences, and though it’s a slasher film, it ultimately comes from a place of deep love and heartbreak, made all the more poignant being set in the days just before the AIDS crisis.
In French with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Playing: Starts March 22, Landmark Nuart, West L.A.