Written by ANNIE JUNOR

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In the breezy summer of ’79, Anne (Vanessa Paradis), a lesbian producer of low-budget gay porn films creates her riskiest film yet, an erotic thriller based on the real-life murders of the cast and crew on her set.

Knife + Heart (2018, Yann Gonzalez) is a strange, dark drama that moves as slowly as treacle. As Anne is investigated in connection with the murders, she turns her police interviews into scenes in her porn film “LE TUER HOMO: HOMO CIDAL” (with artistic liberty, adding in that the police officer dry-humps a typewriter), and does investigations of her own into who is committing the murders. Between juggling her directorial commitments, Anne is also dealing with the heartbreak of being dumped by her on-set editor Loïs, who to ensure a proper separation, is allowing them only to spend time together whilst at work.

It’s almost a surprise to find out that this film was only released in 2018, considering how effectively it manufactures all of the mood and stylings of a 70’s film. The whole films grainy, glowing texture (shot on 16mm), matched with its cheap porno sets and synth soundtrack makes watching it a trip back into an Italian Giallo. The scrappy charm of the pop-coloured sets and cinematography makes for an endearing watch, and the cheesy, dramatic deaths bring back all the nostalgia of re-watching Suspiria (1977, Dario Argento), but with a lot less fake blood.

Though an enjoyable drama, it is kind of hard to figure out what this film is really about. It kind of feels like it flounders, unsure of whether to focus on any of the storylines: the pornography plot, the romance or the murders of Anne’s cast and crew. As a result of its slow pace, the separate plotlines become hard to follow, plot jumps are made and not much story is covered in too much time. Knife + Heart blurs the lines of genre, and by leaving long gaps between each murder, the plot loses any sense of excitement or eroticism that a pornographic thriller would be expected to give.

Though its melodramatic themes and slow pace make it an excellent Giallo, the pacing of the storyline makes for a viewing experience that feels like a slow trudge rather than a thrilling murder or even a tragic melodrama. Vanessa Paradis crushes her role, and the incredible cheesiness of the story, set and cinematography makes this drama worth checking out.

You can see Knife+Heart in Australian cinemas as part of 2019 Alliance Française French Film Festival, as well as Melbourne Queer Film Festival 2019.