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    Out Actor Nicolas Maury Steals Every Scene in Gay Thriller Knife+Heart

    Out gay actor Nicolas Maury steals his every scene in director Yann Gonzalez’s audacious thriller Knife+Heart, set in the gay adult film industry in Paris, 1979. When various actors who work for porn producer Anne (Vanessa Paradis) are murdered—by a masked killer wielding a sex toy that turns into a knife, no less—she is questioned by the police.

    Oddly, Anne is inspired to turn these scenes from her life into “art.” She casts her actor-director Archibald (Maury) as her screen alter ego in a porno called Homocidal that recreates her police interrogation scenes as erotic comedy. Knife+Heart gets serious—and stranger—as Anne tries to solve the crime.

    Maury’s loyal right-hand man supports Anne as she grapples with the death of cast members and her breakup with girlfriend Loïs (Kate Moran), the adult film studio’s editor. His scenes add comic relief to this naughty thriller. 

    In a recent interview via WhatsApp, the openly gay Maury explained that making the film—and the erotic film-within-a-film—was fun for him, “I was like a puppet. Sometimes, when I act, I consider myself like a Barbie, and it’s interesting—like in Fassbinder’s films—because I love to be a little doll in the hands of the director.”

    Knife+Heart is Maury’s second feature with Gonzalez after playing a transvestite in You and the Night. (He also appeared in Gonzalez’s 2017 short, Islands.) He appreciates the director’s fertile vision, and his films, which are set in worlds that are dreamlike and very poetic. He acknowledged, “Yann shot Knife+Heart on film, in 35mm, which is uncommon. Yann and I believe in the power of film. You film the aura and soul of things. Maybe Yann films the soul of porn … or the sex. He’s like a shaman.”

    But Maury also gets the opportunity to be creative. He improvises an amusing bit in the film where Archie tells a group of porn actors to undress, and when one actor throws his underwear at Archie, he sniffs it, generating a laugh.

    “That was my idea,” Maury admitted. “It’s risky, but it had to be to be funny.” Likewise, when Archie plays with the film’s semen or masturbation scenes, it is very ridiculous and absurd, but that’s what makes Knife+Heart edgy and funny.

    The actor also approached the character of Archie, with his body. “I had a trainer, because I would have some sex scenes and some nude scenes, so I wanted to be in good shape,” he demurred.

    Speaking of sex, Maury addressed the huge question of why we like to watch pornography. “We’re in this era where it’s easy to watch porn, but this film is about the preciousness of images and the rarity of the image and unconscious images. For me, voyeurism is about fetishism. It’s very important for me to sample it—like a wine taster—it’s about exigence.”

    To get into the character of a porn actor-director in 1979 France, Maury bleached his hair blonde, grew a porn ‘stache, and wore vintage clothes, such as a pair of revealing hot pants. “All the looks they wanted me to wear were real clothes from the era,” Maury said. “What was difficult was the green trench coat, which Vanessa [Paradis] and I had to share. We both perspired, so it was really wet. I felt bad for her. We used vodka to mask the perspiration.”

    As for working with Paradis, and playing her on-screen alter ego, Maury gushed, “It was overwhelming for me, since I have been a huge fan of hers since I was 7. She really inspired me. It was intense between us on the set.”

    He described Archie’s relationship to Anne bluntly, “I’m her pet,” adding, “I loved playing that because it’s important to show that in the job and in friendship.” But he also noted, that while he may play “someone’s dog” in the film, or in his current Netflix series Call My Agent, where he plays Hervé, a dedicated assistant to a French film agent, he is not like these characters in real life.

    Maury, who talks in a soft, gentle voice, often plays effeminate gay men, but he does this with confidence, not shame, thereby shattering the stereotypical “sissy.” He confessed oozing charm, “It’s my elegance.”

    Maury continued to make observations about being a gay man who frequently plays gay roles, “It’s being more deeply myself. Sexuality and gender for an artist are not that important; we are monsters. I want to define myself with texts, authors, projects and the style of the film I choose. OK, I’m gay. Maybe it’s obvious for certain people, but I played a part of a young father last November and it was another side of myself. It’s a sweet battle. I’m not in war, I’m not a soldier, but gentle. I think maybe my part can move the mentality sometimes. I get a lot of messages from young gay guys about Hervé, and that moves me very much.”

    After all of the talk of sex and sexuality, there is one point left to discuss. Given that Knife+Heart is a thriller, Maury spoke about what scares him. He said, “Homophobic people, the stupidity of people, the lack of desire of people, the lack of curiosity in humanity and people who lie.” And then, after a dramatic pause, he added, “And mass murders too.”

    © 2019 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer