290) Trouble Every Day (2001) Dir: Claire Denis Date Released: March 2002 Date Seen: September 12, 2009 Rating: 3.5/5
Having already been impressed by filmmaker Claire Denis' formal prowess, especially in the way that she so artfully but rigorously blocked her subjects in each shot, in Friday Night, I suppose I expected nothing less from Trouble Every Day (both 2001). I'm not exactly exactly sure if that was the first thing on my mind before I decided to rent it because, realistically, I was more absorbed by deciphering this perplexing promo art and Netflix's description, which begins with this noodle-scratcher: "Modern-day cannibalism is more like a disease du jour in this tale of...a woman with a cerebral malady that forces her to combine libido and appetite." The prospect of seeing what I took to be Denis' version of an arty mondo* black comedy was overwhelming. Besides, I was looking for one or two more of Denis' flicks to catch up with so I don't look like a clueless slob when I see either of her two latest films.
For my taste, Trouble Every Day was definitely a good choice. As a quasi-horror, quasi-scifi drama, it mostly relies on its sense of mystery instead of cheap yelps (though Denis does not go easy on the gore). Trying to grasp what kind of scientific research has transformed Coré (Béatrice Dalle) into a lascivious flesh-eater, why she appears to be a magnet for vandals and would-be rapists and how Shane (Vincent Gallo), an American in Paris for his honeymoon, has contributed to her affliction is what makes the bulk of the film such a riveting puzzle. Once the film's focus shifts however and it becomes clear that Denis and co-writer Jean-Pol Fargeau are no longer dropping bread crumbs for the viewer, I lose interest. It's as if they no longer cared for what made the film so exciting in the first place, namely its pervasive atmosphere of unknowable dread and decided that instead, they should focus on what the characters will do next.
Don't get me wrong, plot counts but I'd be much more excited about the film's third act if it didn't feel like a drawn-out road to a predictably inconclusive finale. Treating the spread of Coré's "disease" like a ritual that infect people is conceptually a neat way to switch things up but I never felt enough of an emotional connection with either Shane or Coré to really care about how their recent bestial behavior re-defines who they are. So again, impressed by Denis' craft, underwhelmed by its effect and another knowingly slight conclusion.
*Friday Night's not shot in a verite style but its impressionistic enough and told in real time so....if the shoe stretches enough, it could fit this lame-ass retrospective justification, ja? Oh, ja.