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With: Vincent Gallo, Tricia Vessey, Beatrice Dalle, Alex Descas
Written by: Jean-Pol Fargeua and Claire Denis
Directed by: Claire Denis
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: English, French with English subtitles
Running Time: 102
Date: 12/05/2001

Trouble Every Day (2002)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Sick Days

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy Trouble Every Day on Import DVD (Region 0, PAL).

Though it didn't get a lot of exposure, I agreed with many of my fellow critics that French director Claire Denis' last film, Beau Travail, was an unqualified masterpiece, and one of the best films of 2000.

In it, she showed an astonishing use of space and movement, pace and poetry. She's clearly a great talent who merely needs good material as a foundation. Sadly, her follow up, the new Trouble Every Day, does not count as good material. It's a gory, aimless and highly unpleasant film. Yet her masterful command of the medium does not fail her once -- making for a decidedly mixed experience.

Vincent Gallo (last seen in his own directorial debut Buffalo 66) stars as Shane, an American newlywed on honeymoon in Paris with his new bride June (Tricia Vessey, from Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai).

At the same time, we meet Coré (Beatrice Dalle, from Betty Blue) in a most unusual place. She hails a truck and apparently kills and spills quarts blood from its hapless and unsuspecting driver. A man named L�o (Alex Descas, from Lumumba) arrives on the scene and -- without a word -- begins cleaning up.

Most of the scenes in Trouble Every Day take place without dialogue. Denis makes beautiful use of Dalle's bestial movements and sensuous lips, as well as Gallo's similarities to a big cat (when he bends down to kiss his wife in the bathtub, his shoulder blades flex and stretch like a leopard's).

Both Coré and Shane have some kind of vampiric disease. During sex they're seized with the urge to gnash at people's throats, spewing blood everywhere (it's unclear as to whether or not they drink the blood). Strangely, neither ever attacks their significant others, though in highly disturbing one scene Shane runs off during sex with his new wife to masturbate in the bathroom. Denis has moved into David Cronenberg territory here, but doesn't seem to have the will to really explore this disease.

Léo is a doctor who apparently spends all of his time researching to find a cure for his lover. Shane has come to Paris with the specific purpose of finding Léo, while June is completely unaware of any problem.

While this plot isn't entirely unfamiliar to horror buffs, Denis gives it an entirely new twist with her transfixed direction, allowing lengthy exchanged gazes to take the place of dialogue or story. Often, the scenes are unbearably sensual, as when Coré seduces an intruder through the wooden slats nailed across her door. But other scenes -- specifically two attack scenes by each of the killers -- play out sickeningly, using slurping noises and extended, screaming torture for dramatic effect.

My admiration for Denis has not dwindled since Beau Travail, but at the same time I cannot recommend this movie to any rational viewer. Even horror fans will most likely not find what they're seeking with Trouble Every Day -- the movie lacks both thrills and humor.

More so than genuine talent misplaced with bad material, this is genuine talent stretched to the limits within bad material. It's doubly disappointing as a result.

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