'Knife + Heart'
Many cinephiles find a certain thrill about films done in the style of their heroes. Sometimes this works wonders – take Paul Thomas Anderson’s fascination with Robert Altman, or Scorsese’s with Powell and Pressburger. Allusions and echoes are part of cinema’s core, and to craft something that feels part of a continuity of expression is one of the thrills of having a well-rounded appreciation for the history of cinema.
On the other hand, sometimes this echoing can lean towards the ridiculous, leading to something so overtly referential that it feels vacant. Worse would be to make references to other references, a kind of cyclical metatext that’s doubly empty.
Such is the case with Yann Gonzalez’s ‘Knife + Heart’, a dull, dumb movie that is deeply infatuated with the works of Brian De Palma, himself the famous fetishist for previous films by masters like Hitchcock and Polanski that he pillaged relentlessly.
Gonzalez’s movie borrows liberally from the tone of ‘Sisters’, ‘Dressed to Kill’, ‘Body Double’, and even ‘Carrie’. This isn’t to say there’s anything particularly revelatory about the recontextualization, simply that Gonzalez takes an established 1970s shlock style and slathers it on his tale of gay porn, murder mystery and unrequited love attraction.
The biggest name in the cast is Vanessa Paradis, who comes across as desperately trying to rescue the irreparable. The other performers walk through in a haze, including Gonzalez’s longtime collaborator Kate Moran and a slick Nicolas Maury. The dynamic between director, editor and actor is frayed when cast members begin dropping dead, thus shifting the film into a clumsy, redundant thriller that bleeds all interest long before the final body drops.
Only one character is genuinely sympathetic. I’d watch an entire film based on Pierre Pirol’s “Bouche d’or,” the fluffer for the porn movie crew who just wants to be part of the pleasure machine for no payment save for companionship. Amongst a slew of self-serving, narcissistic characters, he alone elicits a kind of empathy.
With a period-inappropriate soundtrack by M83, some audience members may enjoy the trance-like ride and shiny palette. But the film is a mess even superficially, and scratching the surface of meaning reveals little in the way to engender interest.
‘Knife + Heart’ is a movie that merits little in the way of attention. While it may be of mild interest to those who have drank heavily from the De Palma Kool-Aid, those less drunk on such matters will find a film unworthy of your time.