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London Film Festival 2018: Knife + Heart, De Natura

Vanessa Paradis in Knife + Heart

Dear filmmakers: if you're going to go about making a slasher movie set in Paris' gay porn production industry in the late '70s, you're going to want your opening scene to be the murder of a porn star by a man in a leather balaclava stabbing his victim in the anus with a knife concealed within a black dildo, cross-cut with the editing process of this porn star's most recent scene. Anything less would be remiss.

In fairness, Yann Gonzalez Knife + Heart is probably a bit too coy for its own good, with moments such as those described above failing to entirely compensate (as I wonder they were perhaps designed to do) for the lack of explicit detail that's frankly essential in a movie like this, but Gonzalez's grand tease is a lot of fun nonetheless. And if it's far from what most would consider 'smart', its intelligence is evinced via other means. Gonzalez loads his movie with little details that feel true to his vision (a casual red nail here, a vividly characterful bit-part there), and indulges every whim he feels, and almost every one we want. Knife + Heart is wretchedly funny when it wants to be, a little scary when it has to be, even fanciful and supernatural when it shouldn't be, all contributing to its considerable charm. Like the porn it presents, it's all real as long as you want it to be, the very nature of a life lived both on the fringes and to the fullest exposing the fallacy of 'reality', insisting that we make our own reality if us outcasts are ever to survive. Plus dicks!

Life on quite different fringes is explored in Lucile Hadzihalilovic's short De Natura, the enigmatic flipside to Knife + Heart's vociferous declamations. This too, however, is all style and peculiar beauty above all else, and entirely the point in such. Hadzihalilovic situates her young girls in nature, detached from human interference, their connection to the natural world as instinctive and untainted as it ever shall be again. They play, and the plants are ripe and beauteous; the plants turn rotten, and night falls, and the playing stops. It's a rather lovely little experience, but wholly inconsequential, and while those who have appreciated Hadzihalilovic's work before may be De Natura's ideal audience, you may also be the first to forget you've ever even seen it.

The 2018 London Film Festival starts this coming Wednesday, the 10th of October! Both Knife + Heart and De Natura will screen there, with the latter as part of the This Is the Sound, This Is the Picture programme and competing for the festival's Short Film Award.

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