Knife + Heart film review Cannes 2018: a love letter to underground cinema

Yann Gonzalez lovingly plays homage to Bava and Almodóvar in gorgeous kinky giallo Knife + Heart

Sexual freedom and artistic inspiration is both nightmarish and totally dreamy in Yann Gonzalez’s giallo infused and fantasy laden second feature. After the Jean Rollin-inspired You And The Night Gonzalez plays with and lovingly pays homage to filmmakers including Mario Bava and Pedro Almodóvar and films such as William Friedkin’s Cruising and Walerian Borowczyk’s The Beast. A rebellious, mischievous spirit and an adoration of underground cinema and the particulars of that intimate theatre-going experience permeates a slasher flick that features as much blood as heart.

Knife + Heart is set in the 1970s queer porno world and stars Vanessa Paradis as Anne, the determined and often ruthless boss of Far West Films who is madly in love with Lois (Kate Moran), the hardworking editor of her softcore cinema. A mysterious masked murderer is offing the gorgeous stars of her films and as the victims start piling up her business starts to suffer and takings decline.

Opening with a steamy S&M club night that descends into a vicious killing via a flick-knife dildo, Gonzalez luxuriates in the leather, kink and mystery of giallo. The sound design and glorious disco soundtrack take hold in ambient club scenes and gruesome murder sequences. Gonzalez relishes the celluloid and cigarette burns of seventies cinema with Anne peeping through a secret hole to spy not only on her lover but the meticulously detailed editing suite she inhabits. The latter half of the film swerves in tone to giddy porno picnic where creatures with claws for hands are introduced and never reappear.

The films within the film begin to imitate reality, with Anne taking inspiration from the murder spree and creating her masterpiece with Homicidal (with the hilarious working title Anal Fury). As the credits roll the cinema goers erupt in anger at a serial killer who threatens their peaceful, passionate and amorous existence. A rowdy denouement revels in horror and the anguish of losing something or someone in cruel circumstances.