Shane (Vincent Gallo) and June (Tricia Vessey) are visiting France for their honeymoon, but Shane is acting strangely. June, of course, expects not only to spent the vacation with Shane, but she also expects a little intimacy, but Shane is distant, especially in the physical sense. Secretly, Shane is searching for one of his old colleagues, Leo (Alex Descas), whose research may be able to help him with a sickness that afflicts him. We see the same sickness in one of Leo's current patients, Core (Beatrice Dalle), who is introduced to the viewer covered in blood, having viciously gnawed on some poor truck driver in a field in the middle of a fit of sexual passion.
Trouble Every Day is often referred to as director / co-writer Claire Denis' take on a monster movie. Some say vampire, but werewolf seems almost more appropriate: instead of the full moon, it's sexual arousal that triggers the transformation. Although this is my first Denis film, it seems clear that story and character are less important to Denis than feeling and atmosphere, and Trouble Every Day does have a certain unsettlingly hypnotic quality to it. Some will find that rewarding enough. I hate to confess that I am one of the folks who wanted a little more than that, but that's a personal preference, not a knock on the movie for being an acquired taste.
When I say that "story and character are less important to Denis", I mean there's really almost nothing to talk about. There is a sense that June feels Shane is already slipping away from her, and she is hurt that he resists the urge to touch her. Despite her outward appearance of calm, she is almost on edge, even afraid at one point when Shane appears in the bathroom, admiring her naked body. Shane, meanwhile, is an even thinner sketch, with Gallo mostly given the expository duties as he meets up with other doctors to ask about Leo's current whereabouts. Gallo's casting is almost more impactful considered outside of Trouble Every Day; the actor's notoriously temperamental and demanding standards for his art and the art of others makes him seem menacing, and when glimpses of the energy he's repressing burst through, he seems genuinely dangerous.
Dalle is best known to Americans for her sensuous turn Betty Blue and her crazed killer character in the ridiculously bloody horror thriller Inside, and Trouble Every Day lands right in the middle. There's something uniquely terrifying about the split-second of her eyes widening as she sees the ill-fated trucker walking up to her, and a ferocity in the way she gnaws on some poor kid who breaks into Leo's lab. For a second, it seems like Denis is offering a pointed criticism of the way the world punishes female sexuality, but Shane's predatory nature is no different than Core's. Leo, meanwhile, is practically a non-character, pulling Core in and cleaning her up, then basically disappearing to his daily practice.
So, what to make of all these pieces? How do they come together? Beats me. It seems safe to say, considering the film as a whole, that Denis is more attracted to the idea than telling a story about that idea. The film's dangerous sensual atmosphere, the concept, and Denis' aggressive camera, which looms very closely to Christelle (Florence Loiret Caille), a quiet, seemingly unhappy employee at the hotel where Shane and June are staying, are supposed to be enough to draw the viewer into this unique horror. For me, it didn't work, but the potency with which Denis executes her vision is more than enough to suggest that someone will find the film uniquely terrifying, a nightmarish vision of repressed desire.
Trouble Every Day arrives with vibrant pink and purple artwork that's certainly striking, but doesn't necessarily convey what the movie is like as well as the original theatrical poster art. The single-disc release comes in a translucent eco-friendly Amaray case, and there is a booklet inside with a "critical re-appraisal" by film critic Melissa Anderson.
The Video and Audio
This 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks like it was done back when the film was in theaters over 10 years ago. Contrast issues plague the disc throughout, with white crush during brightly lit scenes and black crush overwhelming the picture at night. When the film does settle in the middle, generally during interior scenes, it looks looks much better, and close-ups can look decent, but the entire transfer, these scenes included, is plagued by a simultaneous blockiness / softness that recalls the appearance of videotape rather than digital, and colors are on the drab side. A tiny touch of edge harshness that might be edge enhancement tops things off. Sound is a slightly fuzzy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track that gets the job done, but offers the same dated kind of limitations as the video. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also provided.
Other than the essay, an audio introduction by director of photography Agnes Godard is the only bonus. An original theatrical trailer is also included.
Trouble Every Day was made back in 2001, and has been unavailable on DVD in the United States until now. For many fans of Denis, that alone is cause for celebration, but the film is a strange one, which some critics have come around on, but others will still find baffling. Renting it is the safest option, especially considering the mediocre technical presentation and near lack of extras.
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