Jason Arment reviews Knife+Heart (2018), seen in tandem with Equation to An Unknown (1980), both French films involving gay pornography. (Altered Innocence)
When I first saw the movie poster for Knife+Heart (2018), I thought it was a late ’70s early ’80s movie, but Knife+Heart is a movie that takes inspiration from Equation to an Unknown (1980), a pornographic film featuring gay men. The most intriguing part of the films’ relationship is the stylistic choices and how they are extrapolated from the “porno,” or “blue film,” to Knife+Heart. What’s a pity is most won’t see Equation to an Unknown, so it’s lost on the majority of viewers.
I must admit, the only reason I saw Equation to an Unknown was SIE FilmCenter being awesome enough to screen it a couple times while showing Knife+Heart and telling moviegoers about their connection. And if I am to continue my confessions, when a friend and I sat down to watch Equation to an Unknown, we found out minutes before the show started that it was pornography.
The problems with Equation to an Unknown isn’t the acting, which is adequate considering, nor the production value, which is on point, instead it’s the lack of sex and musical score which debilitate the film. Sure, there are ultra-explicit sex scenes, but nothing special. The lack of music was especially problematic as my friend snored through stretches of boredom.
Knife+Heart is a goofy film about a serial killer stalking and killing the cast and crew of a gay porno production studio. The film suffers from being a little too “indie.” Moments of silly improvisation with props seem off-key, and the acting is subpar. Overall, Knife+Heart ends up being unique, which is hard to do. It also brings difficult issues, like rape, to the screen and handles them with surprising maturity.
(Knife+Heart movie poster; Altered Innocence)
Does Knife+Heart have the legs to carry through scenes of people fucking, killing, and falling in and out of love? No. The movie gets lost in its own sauce. It’s extremely difficult to balance all the elements it brings together, and the reasons for this difficulty are aptly illustrated—the tone of a movie must be carefully changed lest it turn to cacophony.
A student of film would do well to see Knife+Heart and Equation to an Unknown in tandem. Even though some of the reasons to do so are cerebral, it’s worth the price of admission. Is it a duo of films the casual viewer will enjoy? Probably not.