The Calgary Underground Film Festival kicks off a week of cinematic goodness with tonight’s screening of Abe Forsythe’s zombie comedy Little Monsters and MMC! couldn’t be happier! CUFF 2019 looks stacked with great titles sure to satisfy cinephiles looking to scratch hard to reach places. Eccentric documentaries, up and coming indie mavericks, art house genre masterpieces, and all around weirdness are waiting to be discovered at Calgary’s Globe Cinema this week. MMC! has seen almost half of CUFF’s programmed features already and so we are happy to point the way for those looking to navigate this great roster of titles.
Knife + Heart (Yann Gonzalez)
I’m not sure how many times MMC! can keep waving the flag for Yann Gonzalez’s Knife + Heart. It was our favourite film at the 2018 Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival and landed at #17 on MMC!‘s top 20 films of 2018. This sex-positive, queer riff on Italian giallo cinema is lushly sleazy in all the right ways, beautifully merging art cinema sophistication and exploitation sinema salaciousness. Set in the Parisian gay porn industry of 1979, Vanessa Paradis impresses as a third-tier production company’s matriarchal head struggling with the murders of her cast by a leather masked killer. Gonzalez makes no half-steps in Knife + Heart and viewers are rewarded with outlandish porn scenes, wild physical deformities, truly phallic murder weapons, and even a bizarre bear attack. This is a film that perfectly walks the line between creating a pastiche that respects its precedent and revising a familiar genre to reflect the diversity of people and stories that demand representation today. Knife + Heart should not be missed!
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Knife + Heart.
In the neon glow of 1979 Paris, Anne (Vanessa Paradis) makes her living producing low-budget gay pornography and struggles with the heartbreaking rejection of her longtime lover and current film editor Loïs (Kate Moran). She aims to inspire Loïs back into loving her with increasingly ambitious productions, even using the murders of her actors by a leather clad killer as inspiration, but as the killings continue and her troupe becomes increasingly cautious, Anne assumes the role of amateur sleuth investigating the secret of the mysterious figure that stalks her company. Deftly blending Parisian porn silliness and Italian slasher conventions with a pulsing score by electronic music group M83 and a perfect period production design, Knife + Heart is an affectionately queer tribute to cinema’s body genres and to love in its many forms.
4K digital master, approved by director Yann Gonzalez and director of photography Simon Beaufils, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Two audio commentaries, one featuring Gonzalez and actors Vanessa Paradis, Kate Moran, and Nicolas Maury, and the other featuring Gonzalez, Beaufils, co-writer Cristiano Mangione, and production designer Sidney Dubois
New interview on the film’s soundtrack with Yann Gonzalez and his brother Anthony Gonzalez
New interview with historical advisor Hervé Joseph Lebrun on the 1970s Parisian porn scene
The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s second day was unusually specific in its program, devoting itself to short films that explored “innocence being encroached upon by outside forces” and a pair of horror-thriller features set around the sex industry. It was an impressive night of screenings, but also one that certainly made demands of its audience.
The “Paradise Lost” block of shorts was long on atmosphere and scares but slim on explication. Most films chose to grab their shocks and get out rather than flesh out their worlds. Faye Jackson’s The Old Woman Who Hid Her Fear Under the Stairs (2018) recalled Bobby Miller’s The Master Cleanse (part of SFFF’s program from 2016 and now titled simply The Cleanse). The short considers the situation of its title character who extracts her sense of anxiety out of herself, hides it in a tin, and faces down some dark, ominous threat that stalks her outside her home. Jackson’s film is wonderfully constructed, full of humour and dreadful tension, and its quality therefore demands more of itself, needing to unpack its conflict and its resolution before letting its credits roll. And the same could be said of other shorts in the block. Milk (Santiago Menghini, 2018) is a chilling tale of a boy trapped between two unsettling maternal figures and choses aesthetics over explanation. Wild (Morgana McKenzie, 2018) is a pastoral fantasy about a girl’s encounter with a magical, deadly, and ultimately unresolved female figure in her uncle’s cornfield. Saturn Through the Telescope (Dídac Gimeno, 2018) follows a boy’s efforts to watch a scary movie at home and is a slickly made and energetic short, while Make a Stand (Camille Aigloz, Lucy Vallin, Michiru Baudet, Simon Anding Malandin, Diane Tran Duc, and Margo Roguelaure, 2017) is a gorgeously animated film set in pre-Columbian Mexico and that seems to tease a supernatural spectacle that never arrives. Uncertainty is a great tool of the macabre, but it’s best used as a lacuna where meaningful questions spring forth. These shorts are uniformly affective and expertly fashioned, sure to be enjoyed by viewers. My only wish is that these films more fully met their narrative challenges as well as the aesthetic ones.