Trouble Every Day (2001)

Jocelyn Szczepaniak-Gillece


Trouble Every Day

Director: Claire Denis
Cast: Vincent Gallo, Tricia Vessey, Béatrice Dalle, Alex Descas
Studio: Lot 47 Films
First date: 2001
US Release Date: 2002-03-01

What if Jane Eyre's crazy Mrs. Rochester was a cannibal? What if Rochester was becoming one himself? What if the long-suffering Jane was a cloying little pixie in pearl earrings and sweater sets?

For those of us who thought these burning questions would never be answered, there's Trouble Every Day, the new film from acclaimed French director Claire Denis (Beau Travail, Nénette et Boni). Every shot where Shane (Vincent Gallo) eyes his wife June's (Tricia Vessey) fragile neck like it's filet mignon slams home what this film is supposedly about: the consuming nature of love, connections between violence and sex, possibly vampirism, and possibly Victorian repression and morbidity. Not to mention Vincent Gallo's icy ability to look totally creepy. There are many unbelievable premises in Trouble Every Day, but the most outrageous plot point might be that any woman would marry him in the first place.

But that sweet little darling June seems to love the guy, and they're happily on their honeymoon to Paris. Shane, however, is fighting the urges to rub up on women in public and to gnaw on his comely wife's arm (somehow these are both symptoms of the same ailment). Meanwhile, Leo (Alex Descas), a doctor who has been ostracized from the scientific community due to his unusual experiments on, of course, human beings, keeps his own wife Coré (Béatrice Dalle) locked up in their house for fear she'll seduce and snack on unsuspecting men. Coré manages to find a willing guy anyway, leading to one of Trouble Every Day's very controversial sex cum grotesque murder scenes.

Still, Coré is no sociopath. She knows that chomping on her lovers is wrong ("I'm sick! I'm sick!"), but she just can't help it; it has recently become her nature. Evidently, her cannibalism is the result of an experiment gone awry several years ago in Guyana, at which time and place Shane and Coré were quite attracted to each other. Whether this means they wanted to have sex, eat each other, or both, is unclear. Regardless, while Leo may be the one physically blockading Coré from the real world, Shane is the one keeping her a secret from his current love interest, which places him in the Rochester role.

The Jane Eyre references aren't the only reasons the film feels rather Victorian. Coré, for one, could have stepped out of an absinthe-fueled decadent poem -- she's devastatingly attractive and totally sexual, but will literally consume any man who sleeps with her. Bizarre "scientific" objects abound, like a glass tub of water with what looks like a giant spinning pill in it, strange plant cuttings in test tubes, and brains chilled in foggy dry ice, evoking the dim laboratories of Jules Verne or H. G. Wells novels. Visually, the film evokes this interest in "objects": extreme close-ups recreate the characters' bodies as abstract landscapes of skin and hair; especially when combined with the Tindersticks' uncharacteristically minimal soundtrack, this kind of detail is hauntingly moody, more than verging on the surreal and the poetic. But Denis' attention to detail doesn't extend beyond the purely visual. Narratively, Trouble Every Day is a plodding mess.

For a brief time, the presence of the hotel maid, Christelle (Florence Loiret-Caille), so much earthier and sexier than June (and also, by far the most interesting character in the film), throws some old-fashioned class struggle into the mix. In this context, Trouble Every Day also considers the threat posed by "dirty" sex; the women Shane wants to harass and/or chew on are all of the working or lower classes, from Christelle to an older woman on the bus to a garishly made-up blonde. They provide Shane with visceral satisfaction, while his angelic wife offers only unadventurous sex. Symbolism doesn't get much blunter than June's white kid gloves, an obvious visual contrast with Coré's sexy black slip or Christelle's bright blue eye shadow. Like the truck drivers and teenage delinquents seduced and murdered by Coré, these women are disposable, while Leo (the doctor) is certainly not. Working this contrast all the way through might have been effective, but Denis has as much interest in these characters as Shane and Coré do: once they are killed, no one notices their absence.

In the film's most effective scenes, Christelle struggles under the weight of Shane and June's suitcases, as they walk behind her without offering help. As though invisible, she makes the bed while the couple cuddles intimately, and her vicious glares and efforts to ignore June's patronizing attempts to be kind are refreshing affronts to Shane and June's oppressive attitudes. Her eventual fate is chilling, but for the wrong reasons, functioning as a hint of the danger posed to June.

A friend who attended Trouble Every Day with me remarked that he would have liked to see the film end with the cannibals devouring each other. Although the violence in the film is already indulgent, in some ways, I couldn't agree more. Without that sort of unflinching consummation, Trouble Every Day is comprised mostly of simplistic dominant/submissive sexual power plays. As for Coré, her libido has effectively overcome her personality, and she's merely psychotic. In an attempt to re-envision the madwoman in the attic, Denis renders her almost silent and, worst of all, nothing more than mad.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.