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Trouble Every Day(R)
Lot 47 Films
Official Site
Director: Claire Denis
Producers: Georges Benayoun, Philippe Liégeois and Jean-Michel Rey
Written by: Claire Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau
Cast: Vincent Gallo, Tricia Vessey, Béatrice Dalle, and Alex Descas

Rating: out of 5

Vincent Gallo and French siren Beatrice Dalle star as strangers who share an unhealthy penchant for cannibalistic lovemaking in Trouble Every Day, but the real star of this sometimes unbelievably gruesome film is acclaimed French director Claire Denis. Long heralded as one of the shining figures of the "new French New Wave," Denis' last film-the sumptuous Beau Travail, a loose, homoeroticized adaptation of Melville's Billy Budd-marked both a critical and artistic turning point in the director's career. That film's starkly realized panoramas of hardened French Legion soldiers adrift in the vast nothingness of the East African Djibouti desert and coiled emotions on the verge of bursting forth into paroxysms of violence combined to create one of 1999's most stunning features. And though her follow-up retains much of the marvelous cinematography and roiling, unstable emotional crises of that small masterpiece, Trouble Every Day is also an expertly clever reworking of the horror genre and its most striking (and familiar) themes.

The story revolves around two strangers-Shane (Gallo), a scientist visiting Paris with his new wife June (Vessey) on their honeymoon, and Coré (Dalle), a troubled beauty whose scientist husband Léo (Descas) imprisons her in their house while he goes off to work-who are linked by a mysterious sexual illness that produces uncontrollable urges to violently murder and "consume" their amorous partners during lovemaking. Shane, unbeknownst to his new bride, is in Paris clandestinely (and desperately) searching for Léo, who may have had a part in inflicting him with this deadly malady and whom, he hopes, may have an answer to his increasingly unsettling condition. Meanwhile, Coré has somehow been transformed into a bestial sexual predator by her disease, which, day after day, causes her to escape her confines to go in search of fresh meat.

Vampirism-as-sexual metaphor is nothing new, but Denis and fellow screenwriter Jean-Pol Fargeau craft the film as an almost completely silent tone poem about the ravaging power of desire in the style (spiritually, if not literally) of German expressionistic vampire films. While much of the film finds its characters sleepwalking through an eerily subdued Parisian landscape bereft of the colorful joy usually associated with the city, the film is unwilling to look away from its most grisly sequences of love-even those desensitized by the unending bloodshed found in American cinema over the past 20 years will find Trouble Every Day's climactic scenes difficult to take.

In the hands of Denis, these two star-crossed monsters' single-minded hunger for brutal sexual gratification transcends horror film clichés to become something more lyrically profound. Aided by an ominously touching score courtesy of Nottingham's Tindersticks and Godard's silky camera work, Denis unlocks a subtle, yet disquieting, beauty in the film's grisly imagery. Bereft of almost any dialogue, the film exhibits an exquisitely somber tranquility that allows its actors-especially Gallo, whose horribly taut countenance brings Shane's tumultuous inner struggle to life-the freedom to inhabit these tortured souls without the usual accompanying cacophony found in most present-day horror films.

Denis once again employs the slow, longing camera movements and long droughts of dialogue that so characterized her previous masterpiece-as well as a fascination with the ways in which outsiders struggle to find acceptance in a harsh, unforgiving foreign environment-and here, too, those chasms of hushed stillness continue to widen until the film erupts in an explosion of ferocious savagery. But Trouble Every Day finds its solace in a final touch of desperate reconciliation that may or may not hint at possible redemption and, in this uplifting coda, Denis finds a meditative conclusion to her tale of the ravaging power of love. For if the act of loving someone is the simultaneous destruction and acceptance of the object of affection, how can any of us turn our heads away from the ensuing violence of such emotions?

Nicholas Schager


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