Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trouble Every Day (film review)

Directed by Claire Denis, written by Claire Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau

Vincent Gallo as Shane Brown
Tricia Vessey as June Brown
Béatrice Dalle as Coré
Alex Descas as Léo

This French Horror film opens with a scene of two random lovebirds making out in a parked car. The camera shot is a bit shaky, and the view of the couple slowly wanders off and on full frame, as if to insinuate that we, the viewer, are watching something private - as if we are spying. Director Claire Denis carries this tone throughout the rest of the film, allowing the viewer to watch the story unfold through the equivalent of a hidden hole in the wall of a seedy No-Tell Motel. We are peeping Toms, of sorts, watching two people deal with their insatiable desires and inability to love.

And what we see is harrowing.

We are first introduced to beautiful Coré (Béatrice Dalle) who picks up a passing trucker by giving him the come-hither eye. Assuming that the two strangers have 'knocked boots' in the normal way that strangers do, it is quite a shock when we later see Coré huddling in the middle of a field with blood on her mouth. A black man driving a motorcycle (later determined to be Coré's husband, Dr. Leo Semeneau) finds her and the apparent aftermath of her sexual wrath - a bloody, beaten and bloated man who definitely has seen better days.

We are next introduced to American couple Shane Brown (Vincent Gallo) and his new bride June (Tricia Vessey) as they cuddle on a trans-Atlantic flight to Paris for their honeymoon.

Shane lovingly kisses his wife and speaks in a reticent, soft voice, which is in direct contrast to his hard and dramatic physical features. Reserved June, who has a fondness for monochromatic Jackie O outfits (sans the pill box hat), shows to be equally enamored by her new husband. All seems rosy, until Shane locks himself in the plane bathroom and daydreams about his bride covered from head-to-toe in fresh, vibrant blood. In this 'wet-dream,' she is sensually aware of the blood and even accepts it. In a few provocative poses, we see puddles of the life fluid collected on certain sexual areas (her buttocks) that exposes the connection between Shane's arousing predilection for blood and intimacy.

Coré and Shane are unusual horror villians because we feel sorry for their unsatisfied desire to love and be loved. Claire Denis uses sparse dialogue in this film, and instead relies on the kinetics of her characters to show how they are feeling inside. For example, we see Shane instensely staring at the chamber maid while she makes the hotel bed, and can almost feel the heat of his stare on her shoulders. The reliance on non-verbalization makes this film a bit of a chore for some regular horror film buff, who may be use to seeing violence and action at every turn. Instead of dulling the viewer with scene after scene of cannibalization and blood, however, Denis calmly unravels the story in a slow, Lynchian pace, lulling the viewer into a calm tenure. I think this is only to intensify the horrific nature of Coré and Shane's confrontations with the objects of their desires, with images so horrific they have been known to make people lose conciousness (in fact, it is reported that two people fainted while watching this film at its debut in Cannes).

Coré is unable to control her appetite for blood (probably because she throws away the medication that her Dr. husband gives her), and wants to be put out of her misery. Her husband locks her up in their house when he is gone, but she continually finds ways to get out and quench her thirst. The loving husband has to go out and find her, bring her back home, and bathe the gore off of her once more.

Coré is your typical Black Widow who wants to devour her lovers. One of the most disturbing scenes happens when two hoodlum teenagers break into the black widow's fortress, unaware of the danger they unleashed. The sound effects of the boy gurgling while his throat is being chewed into is disgustingly good.

Shane Brown also deals with this trouble every day - the trouble of wanting to satisfy his sexual urges, but not being able to turn off that carnivorous part of him that also wants to eat his lover during the act. This crux, which prevents him from consecrating his new marriage, leaves his Paris connubial bed dry. June is understandably confused and hurt, especially when Shane runs off to the bathroom to masturbate in order to 'take the edge off' in order to keep him from hurting his wife. He obviously loves her and wants to be cured, so that he can have a normal, sexual relationship with her - and their new marriage pressures him to look for that cure, fast. June is left wondering if she is to blame, and seems eager to please him. She even shows a bite mark on her shoulder and lip - perhaps from Shane's past failed attempts at making love with his wife without making dinner out of her?

Later on in the film, we discover that Shane's real motive in going to Paris was not to honeymoon (this was a cover), but to find the isolated biologist Dr. Leo Semeneau, the only person who can help him with his sick sexual urges, I think because he is also the cause of it. A snap shot of a research article reveals that Dr. Leo Semeneau had done extensive research that focused on "nervous diseases, pain, mental diseases and problems of libido"- and it is also later revealed that Shane and Coré were present during his libido experimentations and were most likely test subjects. Though the testing was to find a way to enhance one's libidos, Dr. Semeneau's tests ended up transforming Shane and Coré into tortured, repressed souls wanting to quench their thirst for blood whenever they became sexually aroused.

Shane is unable to find the doctor, but with the help of a fellow scientist he tracks down Coré. Shane finds Coré at the very moment she has given up on herself. This meeting seems a bit disjointed in the film, only because it is not clearly determined how Shane and Coré knew each other, or if they had any feelings for each other. Shane ends up killing Coré before she can do it herself, but it appears to be out of self-defense.

After seeing how low and hopeless Coré had gotten with her disease, Shane decides that he must satisfy this urge of his no matter what, probably in an effort to spare his wife. He turns on a chamber maid at the Paris hotel that he has had his eye on. This scene, which is near the end of the film, is very disturbing and shows the magnitude of his sexual frustration. The built up desire, lust and sexual obsession he releases is at horrifying level.

Overall, I think Claire Denis has made a beautiful, thought-provoking film. Perhaps the cannibalism here is a metaphorical statement on the depths at which people with go to connect physically with the other people and the objects of our obsession. Psychologists have long said that the act of cannibalism is a way to become one with their victims, and to inhabit their souls forever.


dr.morbius said...

I have seriously mixed feelings about Trouble Every Day. On the one hand, I can watch anything shot by Agnès Godard. No one films human skin like she does (especially when it's smeared with blood). On the other hand, there's something about Vincent Gallo that makes me want to punch him in the face. I couldn't say exactly what it is, but it's there.

krisenthia said...

gallo definitely has that punch-me-in-the-face quality about him...