Judge P.S. Colbert grows stubble every day.
"You're so sick…You're sick."
Dr. Shane Brown (Vincent Gallo, Essential Killing) and his lovely bride June (Tricia Vessey, Town And Country) share a champagne toast aboard the flight taking them to Paris for their honeymoon. Later, as Mrs. Brown dozes, Dr. Shane slips off to the plane's restroom, where he slips into a series of blood-soaked reveries so involved and affecting that one wonders whether or not these mental images serve as a source of terror or sexual pleasure (if not a combination of the two) for the good doctor?
Meanwhile, Parisian doctor Leo (Alex Descas, Coffee And Cigarettes) has problems of his own, between treating patients unable to pay him and keeping tabs on his lover Clore (Beatrice Dalle, Night On Earth), who, when not heavily medicated and safely locked away in her bedroom, seems unable to stop herself from prowling the city streets, in search of someone to help her satisfy her cannibalistic sexual urges.
I'm not being euphemistic here. In fact, Trouble Every Day conflates orgasm with ingestion, resulting, quite literally in a cinematic essay on an all-consuming passion.
I'll admit that I felt some trepidation going in, fearing that I was about to screen a Gallic variation of David Cronenberg's Crash; a film once expertly described by Roger Ebert as the story of a select group of self-abusing characters "hopelessly fascinated by a connection between eroticism and automobile accidents," in the manner of fetishists.
Don't get me wrong: I quite admired the Cronenberg film, particularly for its (admittedly cringe-inducing) satiric take on unusual sexual proclivities, but cannibalism as an aphrodisiac—even for a select group of characters? Oh, come on!
Fortunately, I'd underestimated the skill and imagination of writer-director Claire Denis (I Can't Sleep), who had no such thing in mind. Instead, I was treated to a witty, suspense-filled horror show, every bit as provocative as it was original. What's more, Gallo's subtle and extremely nuanced performance managed to convince me that my largely negative opinion of his talents (have you tried to sit through The Brown Bunny?) was in need of some drastic revision.
To be clear, Trouble Every Day practically defines "unsettling," by virtue of its bold (some would say outrageous) premise; its excessive use of blood—think Stanley Kubrick's The Shining—and its seemingly jagged, though actually quite linear narrative progression, suggesting shards of colored glass awkwardly assembling themselves into a mosaic over the film's duration. Too gory and aggressive for populist audiences and most likely too off-beat for "quality kills" viewing types, I definitely recommend Trouble Every Day as a rental-first experience to the blissfully unaware.
Those who do decide to commit this release to their home libraries are certain to be pleased by Oscilloscope's standard def 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, which makes the most of cinematographer Agnès Godard's breath-taking compositions. Likewise, the Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is put to good use, particularly with regard to a hauntingly evocative score by British indie band the Tindersticks. Optional English subtitles are available.
Bonus features include a booklet with a "critical reappraisal" of the film, which was largely savaged by critics upon its release. There's also the (original French) theatrical trailer, and an oddity: DOP Godard gives a lengthy but illuminating audio intro to the feature, giving a great bit of detail about her approach to photographing this elegantly grisly tale.
Worried about adding too many empty calories? No snacks go well with this cinematic stomach-tester, and for gosh sakes: Don't even think about having a V-8!
Grotesque in the Grand Guignol tradition, but not guilty.
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