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Trouble Every Day (2001)
A film fashioned as a Venus Flytrap – it slowly and languorously draws us in, disarms us and then slams shut. The score by Tindersticks adds greatness to the whole affair and the film exudes a stately subdued elegance – even during the intense scenes of violence and bloodshed (there are two you will never forget). At the Cannes film festival where the movie screened out of competition there was some ballyhooing about the gore, complete with walkouts. The narrative is oblique and sparse but never meandering – it knows where it is going – why rush getting there? Trust me, you’ll be glad it didn’t. It all unfolds largely through imagery and sometimes barely even bothers with dialogue, cultivating a dreamlike quality that director Claire Denis enhances by shooting with various different types of film stock. The first explosion of violence threatens to tear the film in half – the second is sad and heartbreaking in its inevitability – these scenes are harsh and unflinching, but never any more graphic than something you’d see in say, a Saw sequel. They are so unsettling because of their marrying of sex and violence so completely and utterly – sex that cannot be distinguished or extracted from its entwinement with violence, desire so strong that it becomes a literal need and hunger for flesh.
Shane and June Brown (Vincent Gallo and Tricia Vessey) are an American couple on their honeymoon in Paris. Something is not right with their relationship. At one point Shane says to his new wife, “I like you.” Almost as if it is something he’s just become aware of himself or perhaps something he is saying to see if it sounds and feels true. But Shane has not just come to Paris to try his hand at newly wedded bliss – he is looking for someone. He seeks a doctor, named Leo (Alex Descas) who he once worked with on an experiment that delved into the human libido. But no one seems to know where Leo is. Where he is, is caring for his sick wife, Core (Beatrice Dalle). She has become an almost animalistic predator, sexually voracious and breaking out of the home she shares with Leo (where he locks her away like a princess in exile) to hang about on the highways and lure men away with her – and then devour them in a cannibalistic frenzy. The early scenes in which we are introduced to Core are oh so beautiful and subtly filmed – we see her before her an encounter – all smiling, eyes shining – and then we see the aftermath – Core huddled in a field, staring off silently, her face smeared with blood, branches and grass dripping with it. Beatrice Dalle is ferocious and absolutely frightening here and in once instance her mouth looks uncannily like the maw of one of the creatures from Alien.
Shane seeks Leo because he is suffering from the same sickness as Core. But Shane has gone the opposite route, attempting to not abandon himself to his desires and to avoid all possible temptations and physical contact. You can imagine how this might create some problems on a honeymoon. June knows nothing of Shane’s condition but is becoming more and more aware that he is keeping things from her.
I really don’t get the critical drumming Trouble Every Day took when it was released – it seemed that no one liked it. Over the years it has built up a small following and rightfully so. This is a gorgeous work, done with the usual eye for detail and lush compositions that Denis excels at. I am thankful for films like this. B+