Jun 21, 2015

Trouble Every Day

As probably one of only a handful of people in the world that simultaneously likes Vincent Gallo, Claire Denis, arthouse cinema, splatter trash, and dark erotica, I felt it was about time that a watch the somewhat curious French-German-Japanese co-production Trouble Every Day (2001). A sort of arthouse ‘anti-horror’ flick where sex, especially of the feminine sort, is depicted as something monstrous and even cannibalistic, Denis’ flick might as well have been co-directed by Mr. Gallo as his perturbingly peculiar presence permeates throughout the film. Indeed, if the weirdo self-loathing wop realms created by Gallo in Buffalo '66 (1998) and The Brown Bunny (2003) somehow managed to haunt the most white collar sections of Paris, it might begin to describe an unnervingly eccentric and strangely erotic film like Trouble Every Day where both blood and cum practically drip down the screen. Notably, Gallo previously starred in Denis’ rarely sceen made-for-TV movie US Go Home (1994) and Nénette et Boni (1996) aka Nenette and Boni (1996) and like in the previous two films, the actor/director has the last name ‘Brown,’ which seems to be both his favorite surname and color as his fairly eclectic career demonstrates. Like Gallo’s own films, Trouble Every Day is also consumed with the themes of male sexual neuroticism and female carnal carnivorousness, albeit depicted in an aberrantly allegorical way that uses and abuses conventions of horror cinema to the point where it makes one wonder whether or not Denis has any real serious respect for the genre at all. Undoubtedly, Denis’ film feels like a horror flick created by someone with nil interest or knowledge of the genre aside from possibly French fantastique filmmakers like Jean Rollin and Jean-Pierre Bouyxou and autistic surrealists like Alain Robbe-Grillet. The story of a somewhat young American doctor of the proudly materialistic and sexually frustrated sort who takes his new pixie ditz wife to Paris for their honeymoon with the dubious ulterior motive of attempting to hunt down his ex-partner as well as one true love, who is a highly visceral quasi-vampire of sorts that suffers from a mysterious illness that compels her to seduce and cannibalize horny men of all types, Trouble Every Day is ultimately a tale about the insatiable sexual appetite of the fairer sex and the great and oftentimes pathetic lengths men will go to try in vain to satisfy said insatiable sexual appetite. A work where Gallo savagely kills a cutesy frog girl by literally eating out her pussy to the point where his signature mustache and goatee are soaked in more blood than gash gravy, Denis’ film notably links the sexual to the violent and bestial in such a seamless way that it is hard to discern when a character is merely sharing their carnal knowledge with their sexual partner or viciously feasting on their flesh. Indeed, Denis does the seemingly impossible by taking the themes popularized by Jess Franco in films like La comtesse noire (1975) aka Female Vampire and giving them a nice pristine polish of artistic legitimacy that still manages to bite. Of course, what better casting for such a film than Gallo as a symbol of male sexual insecurity and feral-like femme fatale Béatrice Dalle as symbol of raw and visceral female sexual savagery. Undoubtedly, if nothing else, Trouble Every Day is a film that brings new mean to the age-old French phrase for an orgasm, “La petite mort” (aka “the little death”). 

 After some truly picturesque shot of Paris during the blue hour, Trouble Every Day introduces vampiric femme fatale Coré (Béatrice Dalle of Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Betty Blue (1986) and Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth (1991)) as she lures a slightly overweight trucker into her particularly pernicious path of deadly debauchery. When we see Coré again, she is kneeling in a field with blood on her face in close proximity to the seemingly smiling corpse of the trucker, who the deleterious dame fed upon after seducing him. No longer in control of her own actions as a results of contracting some sort of unexplained virus or disease that makes her act like a rabid erotomanical vampire, Coré is watched over by her unconventionally cuckolded negro husband Dr. Léo Semenau (Denis regular Alex Descas of Raoul Peck’s Lumumba (2000) and Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)), who takes it upon himself to bury the corpses of his wife’s exclusively white victims and clean the blood off her body after she has finished feeding. Once one of France’s most respected and successful neuroscientists, Léo had to quit the powerful pharmacology company that he worked for and now works as a lowly general practitioner so that he can take care of his wife and dedicate much of his time to attempting to find a cure to her curious affliction. When away at work, Léo keeps Coré boarded up in a room so that she cannot get outside and use her ravishing beauty to ravage unsuspecting men. Unbeknownst to Léo, two young men have been stalking his house and plan to vaginally plunder his wife, which she is literally begging for as demonstrated by the fact she tries break off screens that cover her windows when she sees the guys coming near him home.  To make matters worse, Léo has to refrain from sexual acts with his bloodthirsty wife lest he become one of her victims.

 Newlyweds Dr. Shane (Vincent Gallo) and June Brown (Tricia Vessey of Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)) are in a plane headed to Paris to ostensibly celebrate their honeymoon, or so the less than good doctor wants his young and dumb spouse to think. Indeed, while he might be taking his wife on a fancy dream vacation to a part of Paris that is not festering with third world rabble, Shane’s real motivation to go to the City of Light is to reconnect with his ex-partner Léo and especially his assumed ex-lover Coré. While in the plane bathroom, Shane has grotesque vision of his wife June completely covered in blood, thus hinting that he might suffer the same malefic malady as Coré and is afraid that he might do something like munch on his new wifey's mammary glands, hence why he will refrain from carrying out coitus with her for the remainder of the film. Indeed, instead of royally fucking his young and fertile wife upon checking into their room at their luxury Parisian hotel, Shane pathetically lies on his stomach on a bed and masturbates in a lackluster fashion while having a melancholic expression on his face. When Shane finds his wife bathing in their hotel room bathtub, he stares at her pussy in an impotent fashion and strangely asks her “Are you frightened?” as if he has reason to believe that she thinks he might rape her or something. Meanwhile, Shane begins regularly going by a super sterile corporate lab that Léo used to work at before disappearing where people dissect brains, but everyone there refuses to talk to him. When Shane finally gets the opportunity to talk to one of the scientists, he is told regarding Léo, “He just left without a word or trace. He just up and left. We haven’t heard from him since.” In a random flashback scene, Shane talks to a bitchy French scientist who accuses him of loving Coré, to which he replies, “It’s not the right word for it. I was attracted to her. She was so stubborn,” thus indicating the two might share a more ‘unconventional bond.’ When the female scientist attempts to agitate Shane by asking him his thoughts on loyalty and betrayal and he defensively responds, “You were not there. You don’t know what happened. You don’t know me. You’re wrong,” she proceeds to accuse him of stealing both Léo’s research and lover, as well as experimenting on humans, and then throws him out of the lab. 

 In a key scene in the film that seems somewhat insignificant, Shane goes on the internet and looks at a scientific website that states regarding Léo’s research, “These samples and analyses should in the near future help us to focus our pharmacological research into nervous diseases, pain, mental diseases, and problems of the libido.” Although never made totally clear, it can be probably assumed that Coré’s lethally lecherous behavior is the result of taking sort of experimental drug that did a little more than just increase her lust for cock, hence her hubby’s fanatical obsession with finding her a cure. Meanwhile, Coré states to her husband while he is giving her an intimate post-murder sponge bath, “I don’t want to wait anymore. I want to die.” Notably, in various lighthearted scenes where director Denis seems to almost mock the horror genre, Shane does parodies of both the Frankenstein monster and Dracula while going on a happy stroll wife his wife around Paris, though he is later revealed to be a monster that is much more heinous than those classic horror figures. After at least one previous failed attempt, two young men, Erwan (Nicolas Duvauchelle of Denis’ White Material (2009)) and Ludo (Raphaël Neal), manage to break into Léo’s house to get to Coré, who practically begged them to let her out before by banging on a window screen like a wild animal. After destroying some of the beakers and nonsensically swallowing some of the pills that they find in Léo’s home lab, Ludo roams around the house while Erwan searches for Coré, who he finds behind a boarded up doorway and who he instantly becomes entranced with, passionately kissing and touching her through the cracks between the boards. Like a wild beast full of rabid lust, Erwan wastes no time ripping off the boards off the door and proceeds to violently kiss and caress Coré, but the fun does not last long as the ferocious feral lady soon begins biting off pieces of flesh from his pretty boy face. When pansy Ludo hears his friend’s strange groans of agonizing pain, he decides the best thing to do is run away like a petrified coward. Like a pussycat, Coré sadistically plays with Erwan before killing him by fiddling with his dangling flesh and softly rubbing her blood-soaked face against his in perniciously playful fashion. Ultimately, Coré murders Erwan and uses his blood to finger paint a wall in her home in a way that might lead some to suspect that she is some sort of degenerate modern artist. 

 When Shane gets a call from a girl name Malécot (Hélène Lapiower) from the science lab where she tells him in an almost conspiratorial fashion, “There is something I want to tell you but I cannot tell you here,” he wastes no time in setting up a meeting with her. Upon meeting up with Malécot, Shane is given Léo’s address and told, “I’m helping you because Léo needs a friend.” When Malécot mentions that Coré is severely sick, Shane acts like a drama queen and immediately runs away without saying a word. In a rare instance of comic relief, Malécot says to herself upon witnessing Shane's strange behavior, “Shit. I hope I didn’t do something stupid.” Of course, Shane immediately makes his way to Léo’s house and soon discovers that cracked cannibal cunt Coré has been playing with matches and has set the place on fire. While Shane wastes no time in embracing Coré as if attempting to recapture the good old days, he decides to strangle the bitch to death when she gets a little bit too rough for his taste and her corpse is subsequently engulfed in flames in a glaringly fake CGI scene that probably should have been cut from the film. While Shane goes back to the hotel to sexually service his wife, he cannot bring himself to consummate his marriage and instead goes in the bathroom and jerks off while June cries and bangs on the bathroom door while calling his name. In a rare instance of onscreen ejaculation, Shane blows his milky load on the bathroom floor. After busting a nut, Shane runs out of the hotel and June chases after him in vain, but of course she never finds him. 

 After going through her husband’s cellphone history, June decides to get in contact with Shane’s ex-partner Jeanne Ghislain (Aurore Clément of Louis Malle’s Lacombe, Lucien (1974) and Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas (1984)). When Jeanne shows June an old photograph of Shane and asks her “Has he changed much?,” she revealingly replies, “I wouldn’t know,” thus underscoring the fact that she has married a man that she knows nothing about. Meanwhile, Shane buys June a puppy at a pet shop and lurks around subways where he seems to manage to seduce women merely by looking at and touching them, thus hinting that he, not unlike Coré, has some sort of entrancing power as a result of his affliction that helps him seduce his prey. Ultimately, Shane proves he does have such a metaphysical mating power when he goes back to his hotel, follows a maid named Christelle (Florence Loiret Caille of Denis’ Les salauds (2013) aka Bastards) back her locker room, sexually seduces with next to nil effort, violently manhandles her, and then kills her before performing cannibalistic cunnilingus on her sweet frog cunt. In the end, June goes back to the hotel and finds Shane showering and asks him, “How you feeling, Doc?” and he affirmatively replies, “I feel good.” While embracing Shane after they mutually agree to go back to America, June gets somewhat of a chill upon noticing a drop of blood dripping down the shower curtain. It might just be my intuition, but I doubt that Shane will be as loving and delicate with June as accursed negro cuckold Léo was with his vampiric whore wife Coré. 

 For whatever reason (I suspect it is at least partly because many women are with men that they are in no way sexually attracted towards), many people have the outstandingly moronic belief that women have smaller sexual appetites than men, but the opposite is actually true. Aside from the fact that it is not uncommon for women to have a dozen or so orgasms in a single sexual session where a man only has one (not to mention the fact that female orgasms are apparently more intense than male orgasms), as well as the fact various porn stars have had their gashes plundered by literally hundreds upon hundreds of men in a single gang bang, certain philosophers have argued that the fairer sex is sexuality personified and nothing more, or as Otto Weininger once wrote, “Woman is only sexual, man is partly sexual, and this difference reveals itself in various ways. The parts of the male body by stimulation of which sexuality is excited are limited in area, and are strongly localised, whilst in the case of the woman, they are diffused over her whole body, so that stimulation may take place almost from any part.” Undoubtedly, the character of Coré in Trouble Every Day is a solely sexual creature of the innately sensually intemperate sort who literally lives to fuck men to death to the point where she even attempts to consume her hubby. Although the character Shane has the same affliction as Coré, he is at least able to control himself to a certain extent and find other outlets for his homicidal horniness. Surely, no one can finish Denis’ film and not come to conclusion that women are the most sexually insatiable gender.  Of course, women have to pretend to not like sex so much because it is the only real commodity that they have to offer to men and they know it.

 While some of her films do feature certain strange feminist elements, Denis is far from a Dworkin dyke or Agnès Varda fan-girl as demonstrated in an interview she did with Interview Magazine where she soundly stated, “I've never seen a world where only men were responsible for the violence and the women were innocent. They go together. Men and women are a violent mixture.” Of course, as Trouble Every Day demonstrates, Denis’ quote can also be applied to sexual violence. It should be noted that in the film it always seems as if the victims search out their predators, but of course you cannot have sadists without masochists and vice versa.  As personified by the Coré character, women typically use more passive-aggressive and ‘esoteric’ (translation: underhanded) tactics when it comes to using violence, hence why men get all the blame.  What ultimately makes Denis’ flick an unconventionally darkly erotic work is not its various beaver close-up shots, but its portrayal of sex as something innately visceral, bestial, and, in turn, truly transcendental. Indeed, although it might seem somewhat deranged, one could argue that the ultimate sexual climax would be dropping dead after busting a load, or so one might assume after watching Trouble Every Day. While apparently many people were shocked when it was released and could not fathom that it was actually directed by a woman, I would argue that it could have only been directed by a woman and a rare honest one at that, which is unequivocally one of Denis’ greatest strengths as a filmmaker. Indeed, not unlike Valie Export, Ulrike Ottinger, Helma Sanders-Brahms, or any other honest and worthwhile woman filmmaker that does not waste their time with sterile and outmoded feminist polemics, Denis is not constrained be the sort of frivolous moral dilemmas that plague men, especially when it comes to sexuality, hence her assumed appreciation for a man like Vincent Gallo who has no problem directing himself receiving an unsimulated blowjob for a film. Out of all the sort of genre-cannibalizing ‘postmodern’ vampire flicks that have been made over the past couple decades, including Michael Almereyda's Nadja (1994), Abel Ferrara's The Addiction (1995), Larry Fessenden's Habit (1995), Guy Maddin's Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2002), and Denis' ex-employer Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), Trouble Every Day is certainly the greatest, freshest, most original, and least contrived, but I guess one should not expect anything less from a film where none other than Vinnie Gallo voraciously feasts on a fresh young frog foregut. 

-Ty E

No comments: