‘Trouble Every Day’
Few films are as “love it or hate it” as Claire Denis’ “Trouble Every Day,” an art-vampire film that, upon its release in 2001, earned equal parts adoration and loathing, with few in between. That’s understandable: It’s a sad yet peerlessly bloody film, sporting two of the most messed-up things you’ll ever see in a movie. Both involve the slow and agonizing destruction of human bodies, the victims screaming bloody murder as what they thought would be sex leads to them being lovingly devoured. (The vampire tag isn’t wholly accurate; the killers here are too greedy to desire only the neck.)
Neither set piece is pleasant, but the rest of “Trouble Every Day” —newly released on DVD, if not, alas, on Blu-ray — is seductively moody and melancholic. Denis is a master sensualist whose films (like last year’s “Bastards”) favor sensations over cold logic. Indeed, not everyone will buy Vincent Gallo as a scientist, though he’s peerlessly convincing as a frustrated crank driven by inner demons to either find a cure for a disease that makes him long for human flesh or give into it. The illness is worse in a former colleague (Beatrice Dalle), who’s so far gone she’s more animal than human. (Dalle’s performance is truly committed.) Her husband (Alex Descas) has shuttered her in her bedroom, where she’s reduced to tempting horny boys through her windows.
Though “Trouble Every Day” is sometimes classified as Extreme Cinema, it never adopts the language of the genre, even as it pushes the gore to the limits of taste. It’s a Denis film, meaning it’s slow and sumptuous, meant to be felt rather than combed over for logic. Details are fuzzy, as is the plot; We never know the specifics of what Gallo and Balle were doing before they became infected, or why Gallo has been in remission long enough to get a bride, played by Tricia Vessey. Her attempts to find what’s wrong with her increasingly elusive husband — on her Parisian honeymoon, no less — represent one of the most nakedly moving stretches in Denis’ oeuvre.
Denis’ inability — disinterest, really — in coherent storytelling works for her; the narrative obfuscation in “The Intruder” and “Bastards,” as well as here, allows viewers to get lost in a microcosm they’ll never fully understand. Though Denis wants to shock her viewers — and despite the controversies it created, “Trouble Every Day” took her to a more exposed, established-master level — what she’s most interested in is exploring the links between desire and destruction. When they succumb to their condition, Gallo and Dalle want their partners so rabidly that they need to literally consume them.
The filmmaking mirrors the heaviness of the burden that at all times plagues them; every shot feels anxious and exhausted, holding on uncomfortably tight close-ups for several beats too long. Through the film runs the score by regular Denis collaborators Tindersticks, whose late-night brooding sounds feel like they’ve always been a part of every anguished, grainy image. If all vampire film use the subject as a metaphor for something else, in “Trouble Every Day” it’s about being in the throes of bottomless addiction, crippled by the constancy of the pain and longing it forces upon you, but ecstatic when the fix is finally, destructively fulfilled.
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