Shane and June Brown are an American couple honeymooning in Paris in an effort to nurture their new life together, a life complicated by Shane”s mysterious and frequent visits to a medical clinic where cutting edge studies of the human libido are undertaken. When Shane seeks out a self-exiled expert in the field, he happens upon the doctor”s wife, another victim of the same malady. She has become so dangerous and emotionally paralyzed by the condition that her husband imprisons her by day in their home.
Claire Denis’ 2001 release, Trouble Every Day, is an eerie, visually attractive French horror film that isn’t afraid to take an old trope and tell a new story. In this case, the old trope is cannibalism. Rather than take the zombies-eating-brains or demons-eating-guts approach, Denis instead treats cannibalism as a sickness that can be managed. But, like any disease, if it is not managed correctly, things can get bad. And gory. And intensely sexual.
Right from the start, we are hooked into the mystery of the film. A woman (whose name we later learn is Coré, played by Béatrice Dalle, best known as the title role in Betty Blue, as well as her role as “La Femme” in the very disturbing Inside) stands near what looks to be a broken down van.
A semi truck drives past, the driver sees the beautiful woman appearing helpless in the street, and he stops to help. Some hours pass, night falls, and we see that the van and the truck are still in the same spot. A guy (her husband, Dr. Leo, played by Alex Descas) pulls up on a motorcycle and checks out the situation. The truck’s door is open, the van is unlocked, but no one is there. He walks into the nearby field, where he finds a man, the truck driver, dead, face down, pants down. A little ways away is the woman, her mouth covered in blood.
Next we are introduced to a newlywed couple, Shane and June Brown, who are vacationing in France. June (played by Tricia Vessey, Louise Vargo in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai) seems very much in love and excited to be alone with her husband. Shane (Vincent Gallo, friend of deceased artist Jean Michel Basquiat, also seen in Buffalo ’66, Brown Bunny, and a whole bunch more) has visions of women covered in blood and takes pills for a condition we aren’t quite sure of yet. When they check into their hotel, Shane stares creepily at the maid (Florence Loiret Caille) who shows them their room.
Trouble Every Day is based more in its visuals than in dialogue, but when the characters do speak it is split between English and French. Unfortunately, there were no subtitles for the French conversations. So the background and the “why” of what happens in the film remains a mystery to non-French speakers. However, once the character introductions and the setting are in place, the crazy starts. Coré is locked in her room and given pills, which she promptly throws away. Then she finds an electric saw underneath the bed. The next time we see her husband, the good doctor is burying some poor fella in a field while Coré sits in the van, face again bloody.
Meanwhile, instead of enjoying his life with his new wife, Shane is searching for Dr. Leo and his wife. Turns out, he knew them from the past. Turns out, this is the real reason he and his wife are honeymooning in Paris. Turns out, maybe Shane and Coré had an experience or two in the past, experiences that have made them what they are today. But while Shane continues to take pills and stress out and walk around like a powder keg about to explode, Coré lets her animal instinct rule over her.
The story itself of Trouble Every Day isn’t necessarily all that strong, partially because it is somewhat unclear and goes mostly unexplained. There are a couple of unhelpful flashbacks, but all they really show is that some of our characters have met before. Where the strength of this film comes out is in the visuals. The visuals of Paris of well shot, giving us a glimpse of the attractive city and showing us we are someplace familiar (a populated city), while at the same time giving us a feeling of dread, a sense of the unknown, like something bad is on its way. And believe me, something very bad is rapidly approaching.
This movie is hardly a gorefest. In fact, it is more drama or love story than horror film. But when director Denis (see also her non-horror films White Material and 35 Shots of Rum) puts in the red stuff, she does it with a master’s touch. The violent scenes in this movie are very unsettling, both due to the fact that they are sexual in nature as well as the fact that they are cannibalistic in nature. The fate that befalls innocent (and sometimes not so innocent) characters is horrifying. The glimpse of death we get via Shane’s vision at the very beginning is nothing compared to the full-on assault about two-thirds of the way through the film. It may take a little while to arrive, but the blood and gore of Trouble Every Day is very disturbing, to say the least.
Trouble Every Day (2001)