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TROUBLE EVERY DAY (director/writer: Claire Denis; screenwriter: Jean-Pol Fargeau; cinematographer: Agnès Godard; editor: Nelly Quettier; music: Tindersticks; cast: Vincent Gallo (Shane Brown), Tricia Vessey (June Brown), Béatrice Dalle (Coré), Alex Descas (Léo), Florence Loiret (Christell), Nicolas Duvauchelle (Erwhan); Runtime:101; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Georges Benayoun/Jean-Michel Ray/Philippe Liegois; Lot 47 Films; 2001-France-in French and English with English subtitles)
“Vincent Gallo is right at home in this French shocker playing his usual bad boy weirdo role.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A troublesome and enigmatic vampirish sex and gore film by esteemed French director Claire Denis (“I Can’t Sleep”/”Beau Travail”), that left more questions than it answered. Marvelously minimalist and almost devoid of dialogue (felt more like a silent movie). It was deeply puzzling because it provided merely a threadbare story and no explicit explanation for what unfolds in its Dracula pretensions. Yet it always kept me in a state of captive anticipation just like the two lost heroines in the story were kept.

One unnerving scene had the alluring Coré (Béatrice Dalle) stand in the road to get an 18-wheeler truck to stop. She then goes into the woods with the excited driver for a quickie. After her ravishing sex drive is sated, she turns to literally devouring him and is covered in his blood (the lesson might be, beware of easy pickups!). Her husband is a scientist research doctor, Léo (Alex Descas), a black man from Guyana, who comes to the wooded area of the incident and gingerly wipes the blood off her and takes her back to be imprisoned in the bedroom of their house for her own safekeeping. In that house is where Léo also keeps a secret lab to do his ground-breaking experiments on sexuality.

American newlyweds Shane (Vincent Gallo) and June Brown (Tricia Vessey) arrive in Paris for their honeymoon and check into a swank hotel, where Shane starts acting odd and keeps leaving his innocent wife alone without mentioning why. Disturbingly their marriage remains unconsummated while he masturbates or fails to follow through on his lovemaking responsibilities. Shane is an ambitious rep for an American pharmaceutical company, who we learn made previous contact with Léo in Guyana about his controversial research and talked his company into sponsoring the unauthorized experiments. But to his dismay when he turns up at Léo’s Paris medical clinic, where a team of scientists are researching the human libido by mapping out the human brain, Shane finds that the lab booted the maverick scientist out for his reckless and radical experiments. One of the scientists cynically says you can probably now find him on talk radio or making the popular book circuit. When Shane tracks down the country house where Léo now lives, it soon becomes apparent that both Coré and Shane have been subjected to Léo’s mad experiments (but the filmmaker never makes it clear when that happened or indeed if it did happen). In any case, each has developed a brain malfunction. Both have had their sex drives accelerated to such a high point where they can’t stop devouring the object of their sexual urges, and have become modern-day movie vampires.

The story remains more creepy than poetic or scary or humorous or clear. It’s this shocking creepiness that becomes its best quality, as it leads down a solemn bloody path that makes it so uncompromising and a grand parody on all such vampire flicks from Nosferatu on. This desperate mood it sets gives the film its stark otherworldy look. It’s also helped by the appropriate sobering music from Tindersticks, and the enchanting cinematography from Agnès Godard. The suggestion Denis leaves is that modern man in his greed and in his need to compete with others, uses sex as a weapon that goes out of control even if science can provide for some remedies. Léo has given both of them capsules to control their rampant sexual urges, but apparently the capsules don’t work or they’re not taking them. Shane believes there is a possible cure, that is, if he can get his hands on Léo’s research papers.

This results in a maddening film. The landscape is strewn with bloody bodies from the sex attacks, and those who are psychologically crippled from the aftereffects of a world that no longer has any promising religious answers for what makes the human brain tick. Science and not religion, as in the older horror films, is now man’s last hope.

Denis’s film seemed more rewarding afterwards, when one starts thinking about its provocative subliminal messages. The filmmaker seems to be saying man will have to learn to control his own instincts, as there’s nothing in the horizon that can save man from himself. The debauched Shane’s killer libido is now apparently a deadly threat to his unsuspecting bride and serves as the film’s powerful metaphor, as sex is literally viewed as an act of destruction and perhaps only the monstrous Coré might not be threatened by having sex with him since she suffers from the same sexual overdrive.

“Trouble” can be viewed as more of an oddity than a true genre horror film (which means this one is fated for cult status and only for arthouse viewers). Its uniqueness, sketchiness and its unrelenting violence might displease some viewers, while others will be thrilled at its strange denouement and ambitiously fresh look at the horror genre. Vincent Gallo is right at home in this French shocker playing his usual bad boy weirdo role. The film is half in English and half in French (with English subtitles).

REVIEWED ON 12/15/2002 GRADE: B +

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”