If Quentin Tarantino were a French auteur who wasn’t afraid of sex, he might have made director Yann Gonzalez’ freaky “Knife + Heart,” a campy and hyper-stylized homage to exploitation flicks.
It’s Paris, 1979, and Anne Parèze (played by the model and actress Vanessa Paradis) is close to the end of her rope. Her tempestuous relationship to Lois McKenna (Kate Moran), who is not only her girlfriend but the editor of the low-rent gay porn movies Anne directs, is falling apart. At the same time, one of her performers is brutally killed. And then another.
Gonzalez, who co-wrote with Cristiano Mangione, shows us the killer before anyone else sees him. He wears a black-leather mask, reminiscent of the Phantom of the Opera, and his weapon of choice is a dildo with a switchblade inside.
After being interrogated by condescending cops, Anne decides to turn tragedy into art. She starts making a new movie about a killer stalking porn actors — with her best friend and most flamboyant star, Archie (Nicolas Maury), in drag in Anne’s role. Meanwhile, her obsession with getting Lois back drives them even further apart.
Gonzalez dives deep into the French gay scene, when young men went for broke and nobody had heard of AIDS. The sex scenes are raw, but without showing genitalia so it’s just short of real porn. His cast, led by Paradis and Moran’s white-hot intensity, are game for anything Gonzalez throws at them, and the result is a crazy, captivating mess.
‘Knife + Heart’
Opened March 15 in select cities; opens Friday, May 3, at the Tower Theatre (Salt Lake City). Not rated, but probably R for strong sexuality, strong violence, some drug use, and language. Running time: 102 minutes; in French, with subtitles.