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Trouble Every Day - Tartan Video UK Print E-mail
User Rating: / 3
Written by Ed Fir   
Sunday, 20 January 2008

Directed by: Claire Denis
Written by: Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau
Produced by: Georges Benayoun, Philippe Liégeois, Kazuko Mio, Jean-Michel Rey, Seiichi Tsukada
Cinematography by: Agnès Godard
Editing by: Nelly Quettier
Music by: Tindersticks
Cast: Vincent Gallo, Tricia Vessey, Béatrice Dalle, Alex Descas, Florence Loiret, Nicolas Duvauchelle
Year: 2001
Country: France, Germany, Japan
Language: French, English (English Subtitles)
Color: Color
Runtime: 97 Minutes

Video: PAL R0
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Distributor: Tartan Video UK

Sex and death are intrinsically connected, but who is willing to truly examine this paradox?  Never do we feel more alive than when we’re spent.  In the animal kingdom life can be so brief one could be forgiven for wondering why some species bother at all, living only to consummate and pass on.

Of course, sex and the human being is a rather more complex affair, where we have sex for pleasure, indulging our desire to partake of another’s body.  Lust becomes a race to orgasm, and with the flow of bodily fluids and the sparkle of nerve endings, we quickly move on to another of the simplest and most basic of conquests.  If there is one thing the AIDs epidemic ought to have taught us is that sex is part of how human beings define themselves.  Suppression of sexual desire isn’t feasible in the modern world, a world where self expression too often comes down to a quick fuck in a back alley, or in our cars. 

"Trouble Every Day" is a film about sex.  It’s a film about the borders between sex and death.  Where does pleasure of the human body begin and end?  Is the limit the drinking of bodily fluids, cum and spittle?  Is it the tongue of a stranger in our mouths, stifling the grunts and moans of passion?  And what can we make of the fingers of others penetrating, forcing us into impossible positions, and groins pounding and grinding until we ejaculate?  Is sex enough?  How could we possibly express our desires in other ways?  With sexual images so prevalent in our societies, how can we possibly express our desire in a way that doesn’t seem, somehow, clichéd?

Claire Denis made this film, and one has to admire her decision to tell it in her own way.  There are the makings here of a horror classic, yet her inclination is to leave far too many gaps in the plot.  This leaves us with an art house film that can be packaged and sold to many different audiences, but might well dissatisfy all of them.  The main challenge of this film is that it will be approached in many different ways, and people will try to pigeon hole it.  Some will find something compelling, others will be frustrated by slow pacing, strange character motivations, and whether they feel the hyped gore scenes really deliver (they did for me, but this isn’t Fulci!)  A quick internet search leads me to discussions about vampires, cannibals, and gruesome gore sequences – all the while entirely missing the point and impact of this film.

Like everyone else, I had approached this film by reading a little about the plot, which is fair enough.  What I found when watching it though is that the copy-writers were far more interested in the traditional form of writing than the filmmaker was.  Describing the plot of this film breaks it down and robs it of some of its magic.  The experiment at the center of events is important in that it can be used to address the question of “why”, but that’s essentially its only purpose, a token concession to those that demand some kind of explanation.  Yet Denis doesn’t go far enough, so when you’re led up the blind alley thinking all will be revealed, you’re simply left more frustrated.  I don’t think the film is any less for that, but some might.

What we are presented with is a film that has all the necessary elements, however, they are presented in such a way that we as an audience have to use the bits and pieces to construct the film for ourselves.  If you truly must have an explanation for every plot element, then everything is there for you to mull over.  If you’re a gore hound, and simply want to see some harrowing shots, them I have no hesitation in saying this film has two scenes that rank high on my own scale of unpleasantness.  I squirmed more than once.  However, if you’re not open to the message of the film, to the power of its central thrust of sex and death, you might feel no impact at all.  Abstracting the gore sequences from the film just doesn’t work (frankly, that’s not a bad thing).  This is a film for mature minds who want more than a quick thrill (which is ironic, given the subject matter).

I concede, the film has another-worldliness that might well leave some cold (be thinking a modern take on "Driller Killer").  Denis breaks some cinematic rules, at one point early in the film even taking the odd step of blacking out the screen and putting us all on hold for 20 or 30 seconds (which feels much longer).  At other times, the camera closes in on almost everything in the film, with extreme close-ups obscuring what is going on, while at the same time introducing a feeling of claustrophobia that possibly has greater impact than anything we might see for ourselves. 

Vincent Gallo ("Buffalo 66") is astonishing in the lead role.  For the entire run of the film he seems detached, and so matter-of-fact that it plays as a biographical documentary.  Yet at other times he delivers dead pan dialog, with hardly any facial expression.  It’s as far from “real” as you can get.  All he while he looks menacing, dangerous. 

At the same time however, there is a vulnerability to his macho persona.  In the film he plays a man highly conflicted with himself – on the one hand he knows what he is and what he wants, and on the other he has his wife whom he loves but cannot consummate with.  There is a tension when this couple makes love or share a space, because he cannot give her what she wants for fear that he’ll lose her forever.  So he turns to self-gratification, with her listening at the door, demanding to play an unsuspecting role of moth to the flame.

Beatrice Dalle is even more intense.  She spends much of her screen time smiling, cackling, and grimacing.  A slight woman, her passion easily overwhelms far stronger men who lack the ability to define their own limits.  Never once do you believe that this woman isn’t going to overcome anyone she faces.  Man might be physically stronger, but their Achilles heal is lust.  Any film that portrays love as a man washing the dried blood from the body of his lover is bound to offend some.

The film comes from France, but at least half the dialog is in English.  Not that dialog is a strong element of this film, because much of the time all we’re hearing are ambient sounds of traffic, laboratory noise, and hotel workers going about their business.  The soundtrack is supplied by “The Tindersticks” who do a nice, if not adventurous, job. 

"Trouble Every Day" is a far nastier film in your mind than it is on the screen.  That’s not to say there aren’t moments where you’re squirm in your seat, but rather it’s because of what it confirms for us about ourselves.  Years of safety messages and the appliance of “common-sense” is often discarded at the offer of free sex, where we’re willing to make ourselves vulnerable for the fleeting moments of intense pleasure.  Sex is a drug, yet our culture is busy both demonizing drugs (illicit drugs kill), to glorifying them (pain killer commercials on TV that contradict the anti-drug diatribes we’re bombarded with).  Sex as a drug can’t only kill us, it allows us to live, so it sits in this space where we don’t even try to qualify it. 

In this film we get to see two instances where couples having passionate, if rather casual sex, have failed to agree on limits.  Where people find out, far too late, that they will be giving of their bodies for one last time.  Even in these throes, they seem confused about where pleasure ends and fear and pain starts.  There are two instances of lovemaking in the film, but in neither case can we rely on the clichéd salvation in the face of adversity.  Instead, love and sex are forever divided.  The ultimate expression of love here:  “I will not have sex with you”, rather than the other way around. 

Given the nature of this film, and its careful delivery, the closing shot of this film is a jewel.  We see a close up of a wife’s face, staring away from the embrace of her husband.  In that glance we see that she realizes that what brings her pain is a permanent fixture of her life, and that she is about to embark on a journey that ensures emotional grief forever. 

"Trouble Every Day" is a film that will challenge you in every conceivable way.  Shot in a fractured, but lingering style, Claire Denis seems to enjoy breaking up the narrative challenging you to accept mystery along with the narrative.  This will close the door on those that demand a more conventional approach; you’re going to have to be adventurous to sit through this one.  I don’t write that based on the story idea, horror fans can easily take that in their stride.  Rather, many cinematic conventions, many storytelling conventions, are discarded in order to portray the loneliness and intensity of casual sex that lead us to our deaths.

Mainstream cinema has been so dishonest in its portrayal of passion, sex, and love that we’ve almost been brought to believe the absurdities must be true – but who would perpetuate such nonsense in the 21st century?  Cronenberg’s “Crash” dealt with sex and technology, Marina de Van’s “In My Skin” explored sex and the self, and now we have Claire Denis’s “Trouble Every Day”, exploring sex and death.  These films work better because they’re not for everyone.  However, their approaches expose more honesty than Hollywood is ever ready to examine, and maybe more than most cinema audiences are ready to accept.  There’s nothing wrong with that!


- Star and director filmographies
- Sloan Freer film notes
- World cinema trailer reel

The DVD reviewed here is from Tartan DVD in the UK.  The disc is coded R0, so anyone should be able to pick it up.  Extras include seven screens of text notes (reasonably interesting, though not very enlightening), biographies of the main players and a trailer reel.  The transfer isn’t perfect, seeming a little low in contrast, but it’s quite good and is 1.85:1 anamorphic.

VIDEO: 1.85:1 Anamorphic 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema
AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 – French, English 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema


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3.22 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

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