Yann Gonzalez’s Un couteau dans le Coeur is a film I feel I should like. It’s got so many element I love in it: a late 70s setting, a porn milieu akin to Jean-Luc Cadinot’s; a lesbian story of amour fou; a gay serial film akin to Cruising but done from a queer perspective; a whole array of fluidly gendered characters; the kitschyness of Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures; Vanessa Paradis giving a great performance as the central character; Nicolas Maury, so gloriously campy in Dix pour cent, and just as good here; and even Félix Maritaud, my new heartthrob, playing a heroine addicted porn star. And yet, it doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts.
Vanessa Paradis is Anne Parèze, a producer of gay porn who’s recently been left by Loïs (Kate Moran), the woman she loves, and the editor of her films. As Anne is driven crazy by this stab to the heart, her stars are killed one by one, and in rather gruesome circumstances: a knife shooting out of a dildo is the weapon used to stab one up the arse, another through the throat and so on. Who’s killing Anne’s stars? We see someone wearing a mask doing the deed, we get little experimental montages of the negative of the images, there are some allusions to Sixties Hammer horror, there’s a crow and a feather and a cemetery and ….I don’t care. Nothing generates suspense. Gonzalez is very good at dialoguing with a history of camp, of gay porn, of gay cinema. He’s wonderful with actors and indeed with tone: he beautifully captures that 70s soft-core look and attitude, but somewhere along the line I stopped caring about the people, the themes or what would happen next, even when it’s revealed that self-hatred is the motivator and even when the queers in the audience get their revenge.
I found Un couteau dans le coeur a disappointment. But I’m not sorry I saw it and indeed it’s made me eager to see more work by Yann Gonzalez.