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From France , a sexy, gruesome, wildly unconventional vampire movie.  It was directed by Claire Denis, known for making slow, thoughtful, determinedly uneventful art films; TROUBLE EVERY DAY shares many of those qualities, but it also has a distinctly macabre air and sense of brooding mystery that make for a surprisingly compelling experience. 


The Package 

     Claire Denis’ previous films include the coma-inducing CHOCOLATE (1988) and J’AI PAS SOMMEIL (I CAN’T SLEEP; 1994), surely the dullest serial killer movie ever made (as I remember, the killers in that one don’t even do anything until the final third, leaving viewers with a lot of dead air).  TROUBLE EVERY DAY (2000) features many of Denis’ regular cast members (including Alex Descas and Beatrice Dalle, both of whom appeared in the abovementioned J’AI PAS SOMMEIL) and shares many of the previous films’ thematic and stylistic tendencies, but some new elements are introduced.  Foremost among them is an English language title, a central character that is American and much English dialogue.  Plus, unlike most of Denis’ previous films, there’s an honest to goodness narrative here (frustratingly oblique though it often is).  This would seem to indicate Denis was looking to appeal to Western audiences, in which case she failed miserably, as the film was never properly released in the US .

     To whit, it was supposed to have been distributed in America in early ’02, but those plans were apparently scrapped after a disastrous Academy Qualifying run in December of ’01, during which the film was roundly panned by critics.  Said critics, unsurprisingly, claimed to be fans of Denis’ previous work but detested TROUBLE EVERY DAY.  My own reaction, of course, is diametrically opposite. 


The Story 

     Shane is an American doctor on his way to a honeymoon in Paris .  Needless to say, this is no ordinary honeymoon, as Shane finds himself tormented by bloody, disturbing visions.  Immediately after his plane lands, he goes in search of the elusive Dr. Leo Semeneau.

     It gradually becomes clear that Shane and Leo were partners in a diabolical experiment that went terribly wrong, leaving a number of severely disturbed subjects consumed with a ravenous lust for blood.  Shane himself is one of those subjects, as is the doctor’s sex kitten wife, who Leo keeps boarded up in the top floor of his luxurious mansion.  Two of Leo’s other subjects unwisely break into the mansion to romp with his wife and end up literally devoured by the insatiable young woman.  At this point Shane, having been tipped off to Leo’s whereabouts by a chance encounter with one of the latter’s colleagues, enters the mansion, strangles Leo’s wife and burns the place down.

     This does not, however, end Shane’s craving for blood--far from it.  Finding he can no longer have sex with his wife without wanting to tear her apart, he goes in search of a new victim...and finds one in a young hotel maid he’s had his eye on.  I won’t reveal what he does to her in the film’s nastiest scene; let’s just say it gives new meaning to the term “eating out.” 


The Direction

     Interestingly enough, this film is widely known—and has been heavily criticized—for its extreme graphic violence, yet there isn’t all that much gore.  Matter of fact, there are really only two scenes that qualify as extremely violent, yet both are SO disturbing they tend to obscure one’s memory of the rest of the film. Claire Denis’ unflinching ultra-realism is what makes them so upsetting; her obsession with gritty naturalism often makes for a dull and uneventful narrative, but does wonders for the nasty bits, with their nerve-rattling emphasis on pain.  Vampirism in this film is obviously presented quite differently than in the conventional manner, involving outright cannibalism as much as blood drinking; victims scream and cry as they’re being devoured, and the camera doesn’t flinch.

     Denis also deserves credit for coaxing a solid performance out of Vincent Gallo in the lead role (Gallo, you’ll remember, is the notoriously narcissistic director/star of the infamous BROWN BUNNY, and has a reputation for not getting along with anybody).  Of course, Denis is first and foremost a master of mood, evident particularly in the final scenes, with Gallo coming home to his wife after the climactic killing; through a series of lingering close-ups and very little dialogue, Denis is able to convey volumes about the true nature of this relationship and where it’s heading...which is to say, nowhere very promising. 


Vital Statistics




Director: Claire Denis

Producer: Georges Benayoun, Philippe Liegeois, Jean-Michel Rey

Screenplay: Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau

Cinematography: Agnes Godard

Editing: Nelly Quettier

Cast: Vincent Gallo, Beatrice Dalle, Tricia Vessey, Alex Descas, Florence Loiret, Nicolas Duvanchelle, Raphael Neal, Jose Garcia, Helene Lapiower, Marilu Marini, Aurore Clement, Bakary Sangare, Lionel Goldstein, Celine Samie, Arnaud Churin, Slimane Brahimi, Alice Houri, Vera Chidyvar

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