Knife + Heart is a true anomaly when it comes to giallo. It’s from France, a country more given to the fantastique film than the giallo — though there are movies like The Night Caller, Without Apparent Motive and The Night Under the Throat. And its victims aren’t gorgeous women, but the actors of the gay porn industry, changing the psychosexual dynamics of the form.
Instead of featuring the sounds of a band like Goblin or a score by the likes of Morricone or Orlandi, Knife + Heart has music by Anthony Gonzalez of M83 who is director Yann Gonzalez’s brother.
A young man is killed by a masked man whose very sex conceals his murder weapon to open the film. Then, we meet Anne (Vanessa Paradis), an adult film director who has recently been abandoned by her girlfriend and editor Lois. The man killed in the opening was the star of several of her films; now she must find an actor to take his place. That leads her to Nans, who despite identifying as a straight man agrees to be in her movie.
The new film — Homocidal — will be her version of the murders, which continue targeting members of her cast. The police either can’t — or won’t — help. But the movie gets finished and as the group celebrates its completion with a picnic, the killer strikes again, just as Anne pretty much assaults Lois in an attempt to get her back.
The true killer is a man whose father caught him making love to another man. He killed his lover and castrated his son, who was also burned in a fire before being brought back from the dead by a blind crow — the fact that this movie isn’t called Call of the Blind Crow speaks to its non-Italian origins — and seeing one of Anne’s movies brought his memories back.
This being a giallo, there’s also a bird expert with a disfigured hand that looks like he has, quite literally, chicken fingers. Plus, the entire end of the movie is explained via voiceover. The fact that so much of this movie is given to style over substance means that it lives up to the movies that inspired it.
While the murders are in your face, the sex is nearly hidden from view. And Anne is an intriguing protagonist — drunken and bitter instead of the normal virginal giallo and slasher ingenues that save the day. She instead brings the killer closer with each scene that she directs.
You can watch this on Shudder.