Director Yann Gonzalez sets his horror movie in the world of 1970s gay porn

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Sex and death collide in grisly fashion in “Knife+Heart,” an ultra-stylized, darkly comic slasher picture that unfolds in the world of 1970s French gay porn.

Vanessa Paradis stars as Anne, a producer whose latest film set is being stalked by a masked killer. Anne — who’s caught up in a tragic romance with her editor, Lois (Kate Moran) — adjusts her production and frames her film around the murders, writing them into her story and rebranding her opus with the cheeky title, “Homocidal.”

The killer's tools of choice include sex toys outfitted with switchblade knives so this material is not for the squeamish. But there's an almost playful handling of the performers and the on-set community, which director Yann Gonzalez champions as free spirits rather than treating them with scorn or derision. Even though he's killing off his cast, he's rooting for them as artists. 

Still, Gonzalez is more interested in atmosphere and mood than he is with story, and he creates the seedy air of a grungy, scuzzed-out 1970s exploitation flick. He’s lent an immeasurable assist by his former bandmates in M83, the French electro-rock act, who provide the film’s neon-lit, retro-leaning synth-pop score. (Gonzalez’ brother, Anthony, is the group’s frontman.)

The murder mystery in “Knife+Heart” doesn't build to a satisfying resolution, but Gonzalez isn't after a "gotcha" reveal. His homage to the works of Brian De Palma and Dario Argento works not because of the character mechanics, but because of the feelings he's able to evoke. "Knife+Heart" is a mood piece that draws blood.

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Knife+Heart'

GRADE: B-

Not rated: Graphic depictions of sex and violence

Running time: 110 minutes  

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