Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Trouble Every Day

TROUBLE EVERY DAY                    B                     
France  Germany  Japan  (101 mi)  2001  d:  Claire Denis

Following the unanimous acclaim for Beau Travail (1999), arguably the director’s most erotic and deeply romantic work, this boldly challenges viewers with what must be what is described as an adult film, as it’s certainly not for everyone, revealing far more than the eye can see, significant as the only Claire Denis film that dabbles in the horror genre, something of a modern era vampire film, a graphically violent and thoroughly disturbing vision of carnal desire as a form of cannibalism. becoming something exquisitely revolting and truly frightening by the end, equating sex with death, and not like anything else out there.  Panned at Cannes and critically dismissed in America, the film has undergone a certain revival among cinephiles who recognize rarity when they see it, but the slow and languid pace of the film will likely turn off horror lovers, while the excruciating blood-letting will turn off art film devotees.  Despite the raw and graphic subject matter, this remains a Claire Denis film, expressed with an artful flourish and filled with poetic ambiguity throughout.  Only a more recent film like Tomas Alfredson’s LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008) conveys a similar attention to detail when it comes to flesh-eating monsters starved for blood, while at the same time offering a haunting sensuality behind the camera.  Beautifully filmed by Agnès Godard, this must be viewed as one of her triumphs, as this is a visually stunning film that operates out of its own unique conception, where it lives by its uncompromising rules even as it references vintage horror films.  At heart, this is a FRANKENSTEIN (1931) movie, where the tropical experiments of Doctor Léo Sémeneau (Alex Descas) went awry while researching experimental brain medicine and have now altered the human gene pool, creating vampire-like creatures with a ravenous need not only for blood, but for human flesh. 

The film may also be traced to THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1977) and CAT PEOPLE (1982), both films with earlier Black and White versions, as the first deals with the grotesque and disfigured effects of medical experimentation gone wrong, while the second deals with erotic transformation, where the sex urge turns humans into blood devouring, flesh eating beasts, returning to human form only after feeding.  However, in the hands of Denis, a consummate artist known for her poetic subtleties, much of what’s displayed onscreen is graphically disconcerting.  Opening with the music of Tendersticks, it’s one of their better scores, especially the hauntingly beautiful funeral dirge that opens and closes the film and has a way of burrowing under your skin, Trouble Every Day Opening Song Tindersticks - YouTube (3:13), while it’s also extremely effective the way Denis opens with a darkened kiss that fades to black for a lengthy period of time, leaving the audience in a state of suspended animation.  Once the picture returns, the familiar face of actress Béatrice Dalle is seen as Coré, flagging down truckers on the side of the road, where all we see is the bloody aftermath, where her husband (Sémeneau) tracks her down and brings her home, tenderly washing the blood off of her, then locking her into a boarded up room in their mansion.  Simultaneous to this event, an American couple on their honeymoon are flying to Paris, medical researcher Shane Brown (Vincent Gallo) and his overly delicate wife June (Tricia Vessey), where Shane is inflicted with the same disease, having to continually hide from her every time he’s aroused.  While he’s using the honeymoon as a pretext to track down the infamous doctor, June only knows he’s hiding some deep, dark secret, and when she hears him violently masturbating in the bathroom, her pounds on the door evoke sheer terror. 

While this is a thoroughly confounding film, one that makes great use of Béatrice Dalle's physical features, giving her an animal-like presence, the film pushes the boundaries of cinema, much of it without dialogue, but using screams of hysteria, reflective of the Silent era, where it weaves in and out of dream states seemingly at will, and where half of this French-language film, including the title, is spoken in English, contributing to an otherworldy effect, like something out of Dreyer’s VAMPYR (1932).  When a young man’s (Nicolas Duvauchelle) curiosity leads him to Coré’s door, words can’t describe the sense of grim bewilderment overcoming the audience when they realize she is incredulously eating him before our eyes, smearing his blood all over the walls afterwards.  While the audience is aware something is not right with Shane as well, none of the people he meets have a clue, as he spends most of the film popping pills and hallucinating his blood-drenched wife, searching for a cure, but to no avail.  A seemingly innocuous event leads to the savage finale, as the maid (Florence Loiret-Caille) lingers in their room after making the bed, leaving her scent on the bedcovers.  Throughout the film this scene has been set up by shots of the back of the young maid’s neck, which Shane has obviously been tracking, like wild prey on the loose, eventually unleashing a wild, animalistic hunger that will not be denied.  It is this exploration of man’s basest rape instincts that prove to be the most deeply unsettling images of the film, like the horrors of IRREVERSIBLE (2002), complete with blood curdling screams and graphic sexual bloodletting that are among the most difficult scenes to endure in a supremely grotesque finale, as Shane finally gives in to his bloodlust, Claire Denis - Trouble Every Day...  YouTube (5:39).  A haunting shadow of doom overwhelms the senses along with a Tendersticks refrain, sending the audience out the door in a shivering fright.      

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