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Shane and June Brown are an American couple honeymooning in Paris in an effort to nurture their new life together, a life complicated by Shane's mysterious and frequent visits to a medical clinic where cutting edge studies of the human libido are undertaken. When Shane seeks out a self-exiled expert in the field, he happens upon the doctor's wife, another victim of the same malady. She has become so dangerous and emotionally paralyzed by the condition that her husband imprisons her by day in their home. It is Shane's chance encounter with this woman that triggers an event so cataclysmic and shocking it might just lead him to rediscover the tranquility he seeks to restore for himself and his new bride.
Masterful, atmospheric horror film, but certainly not for everyone
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.
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