Trouble Every Day (2001)
Directed by Claire Denis
Written by Claire Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau
Starring Vincent Gallo, Tricia Vessey, Béatrice Dalle, Alex Descas, and Florence Loiret Caille
I’m generally willing to meet a film at least half way. A slowly paced story with lengthy silences isn’t a deal-breaker for me, and the horror of the human condition is my kind of thing. English, French, Japanese, Hindi — the language doesn’t matter as long as I can follow along with subtitles. But at the end of the journey, I need to have felt something more than tedium. Trouble Every Day only added irritation for me.
The movie starts by following Coré (Béatrice Dalle) as she attracts and murders a trucker. Her husband Léo (Alex Descas) finds her and the body and embraces her sorrowfully. The focus then shifts to June (Tricia Vessey) and Shane (Vincent Gallo), Americans on their way to Paris for their honeymoon. We also follow their hotel maid and the young guy who lives next to Coré. In fact, it’s hard to know who the film’s about. It’s not really an ensemble piece, either; the film seems to get as bored as the audience and go looking for something else to watch.
Coré and Shane are both afflicted with a sort of erotic cannibalism, the result of a nebulously defined research project. For them, the consumption of their sexual partners is a necessary and unavoidable part of the act. Not only that, but their combined appetites seem insatiable. Pretty solid premise for body horror, and it could be the basis for a decent dark comedy, grindhouse, or even thriller. Unfortunately the film doesn’t do anything in particular with this setup. It’s just something inconvenient that happens to people who barely exist. There’s certainly some sex and cannibalism, but it’s the utter lack of anything else that leaves time for the mind to wander. If the film was meant to transfer the frustration of the characters into the audience, it succeeded all too well.
There are tiny vestiges of motivation in the characters, left to wither on the screen. Shane wants to cure his affliction, at least at first. June wants Shane to come to bed. Léo wants to find a cure for Coré, while she wants to eat people. But that’s it. There’s no personality beyond their dead eyes, simply movement from scene to scene. At first I held on to the maid for the Browns’ hotel room, who noticed Shane leering at her, but all she did was decide to screw him for no clear reason. Her frequent changing scenes offered no context for her decision. At length I settled on the puppy for my narrative focus. I imagined the boredom it would face spending its formative months in quarantine because some stupid American thought it was cute. I feel for you, pal.
To end on a positive note, I did like the way that language was handled in the film. The Americans spoke English, as did the French people when speaking with them. In the absence of the Browns, everyone used French. It was a nice touch, the only thing anyone did that felt at all real. There’s also a weird moment of unintended comedy when Shane masturbates in his bathroom and leaves about a pint of perfectly white residue on the counter. That’s it. What I got out of Trouble Every Day is simply that Vincent Gallo produces voluminous rich cream.
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