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"Trouble Every Day" is, for me, one of the most unfairly maligned films of recent times. Surely it is the admittedly confronting content that has people dismissing this near-brilliant meditation on carnal desire, blood lust and homicidal tendencies, and not the filmmaking. There is something gratuitous about the scenes of explicit violence in "Trouble Every Day" but I see no reason why this is grounds to reject the film outright. I think everything else works pretty well from the elliptical narrative that never lets on more than it needs, the stripped and reserved performances, the suggestive camera work and the beautiful, atmospheric photography. The sense of menace created by the guttural aural track and the bloody violence suggest an unusual link between art-film and horror that is reminiscent of Cronenberg and Ferrara. One of the more compelling films I've seen in recent times.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had a chance to view Trouble Every Day at the Cinemuerte film festival here in Vancouver, and I felt the need to talk about it, as it's an extraordinary film, yet one which I'll never see again. The film, much like Abel Ferrera's 'The Addiction', features a twist on a well treaded horror device, in this case, Cannibalism, and treats it as a horrendous disease which afflicts someone, and the horrors that person, and as well the people around them suffer. Vincent Gallo, who is terrific here, plays a newlywed who takes his new wife to France for a honeymoon. It is soon learned that he is also searching for a college friend, who with Gallo, participated in experiments during their college days which have left them scarred and ravenous. Gallo seems to be fine, keeping his cannibalistic urges to a minimum, but his college mate, played with unabandon by Beatrice Dalle, is not. As a matter of fact, this is probably the most hateful character I have ever witnessed in a movie. She frequently lures men for sex, and when the sex drive kicks in, that's when the cannibalistic urges start. Much of the cinema in the past has treated Cannibalism either in a sci fi vein (much like George Romero's "dead" movies) or for use as shock value. (Cannibal Holocaust) Very rarely has cannibalism gone down to a believable state (the only film that I can think of right now is 'Alive', but the victims were already dead, and frozen). Much of the films, were of the fantastic vein, "this won't happen here" sort of thing. While the film does take place in France, the director, Claire Denis has made the fate of the characters so realistic and haunting that it's hard to shake off. This brings me to the most ghastly, frightening and sad scene I probably have seen ever. A young man is seduced by Dalle's character, and they proceed to have sex. During which, her impulses start to take over and proceeds to bite into his neck. What follows are the most primal, maddening, shocking, screaming coming from the male - It's hard to describe. He's crying, screaming, shaking. While this is happening, like some wild animal, Dalle starts playing with the terminally injured man, nipping, playing with pieces of flesh, and kissing him. Sickening, scary, hateful, disgusting, haunting. The scene is all of these, but it's amazingly well done, and probably will stick with me for a long time. All in all, I probably won't see Trouble Every Day for a long time (if at all). Don't get me wrong, I think the film is an amazing accomplishment, one of those hooror movies that truly get under your skin and stays there. It's just a movie that is truly hard to like.
I was tired and ready for bed but my curiosity got the better of me and
I put the DVD in, expecting just to watch a few minutes. 1 & 1/2 hours
later the film was over and I didn't want it to be.
Trouble Every Day is a haunting vision of desire gone haywire. Light on story and big on aesthetics, the film moves silently like a sensual and terrible dream. You've got to hand it to Claire Denis - it could have all gone horribly wrong were it not for her ability to set just the right poetic tone and mood.
This film is lovely to look at and the camera work is captivating. There is such suspense when the camera follows the back of the chambermaid's neck. The lack of dialog is so hypnotic that when characters began speaking it was an unwelcome jolt. This was especially true of Vincent Gallo (Shane) whose whiny voice is strangely at odds with his intense and unique looks. Beatrice Dalle is perfect as Core who is more animal than human. Her one speaking line says everything you need to know about her character. There was not a moment that I didn't fully believe Core's plight and pity and fear her.
When the movie begins Core has already completely succumbed to the unexplained sickness that Shane spends most of the film trying to suppress. Core is locked indoors all day in an attempt to prevent her from killing but she finds her way out and eventually the prey comes to her.
The two much talked about cannibalism scenes occur pretty late in the film and are worthy of the fuss -they are stunning.
There isn't enough plot development to figure out exactly what is happening to these people or why. There could have been a bit more explanation but the ambiguity makes everything a bit creepier.
Then I went to bed and you can only imagine my dreams.
I can see why 'Trouble Every Day' divides viewers. Some find it slow, pretentious and boring, and I totally understand why. It certainly has moments that fit those adjectives, but then there are scenes of great power that really impress. It's difficult and sometimes frustrating viewing, sure, but very beautiful and brutal, and ultimately an extremely fascinating film. 'Trouble Every Day's arthouse approach to horror themes reminded me a little bit of both Abel Ferrara's 'The Addiction' and Jean Rollin's 'Night Of The Hunted', but that's just to give you an idea of the strange territory the movie enters. I can also understand where the David Cronenberg comparisons are coming from, but Claire Denis is a lot less clinical and detached. It's a very emotional movie, and a lot of that has to do with Vincent Gallo's subtle performance. Gallo ('Buffalo '66', 'The Funeral') is a controversial figure as a person, but as an actor there's no disputing his talent. His wife, played by 'Ghost Dog's Tricia Vessey, is also excellent, and Beatrice Dalle ('Betty Blue')'s performance is way out there, but it's Gallo's movie as far as I'm concerned. This movie is not to everyone's taste (no pun intended!), but if you are looking for something different and are willing to put some effort in, I highly recommend this film. There's nothing quite like it.
The provocative cover image of a blood-spattered Beatrice Dalle only
hints at the ferocity within Claire (Chocolat, Beau Travail) Denis'
sad, haunting study of sex and cannibalism that caused record walkouts
and faintings at its Cannes screening.
The voracious, predatory Core (Betty Blue's Dalle) is boarded up in a secluded Paris house by her husband, the errant scientist Leo (Alex Descas). She periodically escapes, seduces passing motorists and in sickening detail, methodically consumes her prey. Her fate is connected to a visiting American doctor Shane Brown (a seedy, unshaven, troubled-looking Vincent Gallo) on his honeymoon in Paris, apparently a test subject for Leo's experiments in unleashing the libido, and who is already having violent masturbatory fantasies of his gorgeous new bride (Tricia Vessey) covered in blood. "I will never hurt you," he whispers to his concerned wife, already showing a tell-tale bite mark on her shoulder.
Trouble Every Day is simply and beautifully shot, and while not as blatantly pornographic as Romance or Anatomy Of Hell, it has a dangerous and electric eroticism that's hard to shake. Wide-eyed Dalle says little yet conveys an air of both tragedy and primal appetite and doesn't overplay her animalism, while Gallo (Buffalo 66) is at his greasy, neurotic best. Its slow pace and spare action deliberately unfold the story in a distinctly European fashion; at the one hour mark the film switches from carnal to charnal, spiraling toward a grotesque and shattering crescendo worthy of the great excesses of the 70s art film. Stunning.
"Trouble Everyday" has been criticized a lot because of two scenes. Two very hard scenes to watch, which caused two women to faint at the Cannes Film Festival screening . Those scenes are not necessary in the film to understand it or enjoy it. The suspense is extremely well held during the whole movie and it didn't have to be so violent. So, the question is "why?". The story would have interested people like Hitchcock or Polanski, and they would have been more subtle and cautious. Claire Denis is not a cautious director. She likes to approach her films with honesty and courage. She chooses to tell a story and wants to tell it as frankly as possible. She did a rational choice that is very modern. Her film is complete, and absolutely credible. She shows us some things that have never been shown before. She explores cinema with anxious desire and rage. That's what makes her film so moving and realistic. As a conclusion, let's say that Beatrice Dalle gives the most incredible performance as a woman who feels like an animal but yet wants to die.
From what I've read of him, I do not like Vincent Gallo as a person,
and he often physically repulses me. In Trouble Every Day, he does
physically repulse me more than ever, yet I do not dislike him in his
role. What I must say impresses me about Gallo is his ability as an
actor, including performances under his own writing and direction, to
play roles devoid of any of the ego that he defensively projects what
I've read of his off-screen life and that are crippled by hopeless
insecurity and apprehension, which he showcases without a hint of
inhibition or unintended uneasiness. That is why I believe he continues
to find work in movies in spite of the unbelievable amount of projects
from which he was fired or walked away, the amount of people he claims
to hate, and the mind-blowingly infuriated critical and audience
reaction to his sophomore effort at the helm, The Brown Bunny.
All-embracing filmmakers see him as one of the very few actors who has
no problem baring himself for a performance as a truly pathetic
character. In this film, he is honeymooning with his wife in Paris
superficially in an effort to nurture their new life together, however
the core reason is so that he can visit a medical clinic where studies
of the human libido are undertaken. He hopes to rid himself of the
bloodthirsty urges that have always plagued him.
The real shock found in this film is my surprise introduction to Beatrice Dalle, who I have never before seen in a movie and near whom I hope to be wearing football gear inside the Batmobile if I ever see her in person. As a doctor's wife who is psychologically in ruins due to a mysterious overextention of her libido and is too dangerous for her husband to let her free from the bedroom during the day, she reaches as deeply into the most basic appetitive animal instincts as she is capable and plainly ensues as a nightmarish monster of berserk chaos. It was clever of writer/director Claire Denis to cast two notoriously wild atypical people of extremity in their roles.
Denis's scenes of gore, which due to her focus on the morose feelings of the characters, mainly Gallo, his wife, and Dalle are intermittent and often difficult to anticipate, are extremely disturbing. During a scene where Dalle attacks a person's flesh as they lay in shock, barely able to scream, the sounds made by both Dalle and her victim are heard just barely over the glum, cheerlessly jazzy score. In the other scenes of violence, Denis's wise discerning between the appropriate placement or absence of music asserts a very moving outcome.
Though I was expecting a grittier cinematographic delivery, the film is stirring, well made, and metaphorically interpretable.
Although I liked Claire Denis' "Trouble Every Day" even more on this
second viewing, I can fully understand why many hate the film. It is
not a film one enjoys (except in a manner appreciative of it as art),
and offers a narrative with little closure and sparse plot. It is also
moody, brilliantly photographed by Agnes Godard, excellently-acted, and
genuinely unsettling, and not just for the much-talked about gore
(which takes up around five or so minutes of the film over two scenes).
The film's thin plot is based around dark scientific secrets and is more than a little reminiscent of one of David Cronenberg's sexually-charged horror films, but Denis' approach is completely different. The film lacks dialogue for most of its scenes, but the visuals tell the story far better than dialogue could anyway. We don't find out very much about these experiments, but we don't need to; the film is about the characters, especially Shane (played brilliantly by Vincent Gallo), and the film is ultimately more about Shane's struggle with his condition and his love for his wife (girlfriend? Not that it really matters...) than about the general plot or the gore.
"Trouble Every Day" (Zappa reference!) is certainly graphic, but only when it needs to be. There are two scenes of gore, both far from the worst anybody well-acquainted with horror films has seen in terms of the actual on-screen violence, but it is testament to Denis' great skill as director and the actors' great conviction that they feel so hard to watch, in particular the latter scene.
There have been films with more or less similar subject matter made before, but most of them are harmed by a cynical, harsh approach to their subjects. Denis' approach to this film is far more human, even towards what some might not hesitate to call monsters. The film is quiet, ponderous, and sensitive (so is the brilliant score by Tindersticks). The brilliant photography and Denis' wonderful mise-en-scène capture this warm feel very well, especially during the sex scene between Shane and his wife .
The critics who almost unanimously lambasted the film in 2001 raise some good points. Perhaps "Trouble Every Day" is under-written, although I enjoyed the fact that the film let me piece things together rather than tell me precisely what was going on. Perhaps the film has less depth than it thinks it does. But the real question is whether or not that keeps "Trouble Every Day" from being a triumph of atmosphere and style, and a haunting examination of gender roles and human sexuality? As far as I'm concerned, it certainly does not.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first heard about this film after it apparently "scandalized" movie-goers at its debut in Cannes. British media predictably (and ridiculously) denounced it as yet another euro-trash art-house shocker made for the cause of provocation alone (the left-wing Guardian being as puritanical as the more conservative papers). In one way this must have surprised Claire Denis as "Trouble every day" deals with the same subject matter as her other films (at least the ones I've seen), i.e. desire. Sure, there's a couple of quite disturbing scenes, but they fit in so well with the rest of this slow, superbly paced film as to not distract from the overall sense of peaceful melancholy that pervades it. I realise that it might sound contradictory to describe a film about flesh-eating sexual maniacs as peaceful, but the long, lingering shots together with the amazing Tindersticks soundtrack create just that: a beautiful, haunting and serene vision of the boundaries between love and desire.
Claire Denis makes really beautiful looking films; unfortunately, once you get past the stunning visuals and the outstanding score from Tindersticks (who outdid their gorgeous "Nenette et Boni" soundtrack, also a Denis film), you're left with a poorly-developed plot that ends abruptly, and without resolution. The cast does a good job with what they had to work with. Beatrice Dalle does "unhinged" as well as Vincent Gallo does "creepy", and Tricia Vessey does the whole doe-eyed tortured gamine well, but there's just not enough plot to carry the implausible story line (ousted doctor tweaks plants in Africa that somehow leads to at least two people who may or may not have been lovers becoming sex-triggered cannibals). On the whole, the film would have made either a great book of photo stills by Claire Denis, or an amazing Tindersticks video.
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