As elegant and mysterious as Beau Travail, Trouble Every Day demonstrates director Claire Denis’s signature obsession with the human body, cultural rifts and the permissions of sex. Rarely does skin look as beautiful, desirable, even delectable, as it does in one of her mystery worlds, visually rendered by Agnes Godard’s expressionistic brush. Trouble Every Day is a cautionary love story, one that gives new meaning to “eating in” and “eating out.” The film’s unnerving use of silence, minimal dialogue and grotesque close-ups emphasizes junkie vampire Coré’s insatiable need for blood. Standing somewhere in the French countryside, Coré (Béatrice Dalle) nervously awaits her prey. Never has the hunger of a vampire felt so alive and so necessary as it does in Denis’s contemporary France.
Coré is empowered and enraged by sex, rendered helpless once her thirst is quenched. She’s an out of control child who must huddle in the fetal position until her scientist lover Léo (Alex Descas) can take her home. Locked inside Léo’s bedroom, Coré becomes a mythic creature dangerous to an outside world that fascinatingly yearns to break in and taste her sexual hunger. Of course, this world is oblivious to the fact that Coré’s sexual release comes with a price: it must end with what amounts to a vampyric form of sexual asphyxiation. Denis envisions an urban landscape overrun by diseased monsters incapable of loving without killing. While Léo’s enslavement of Coré showcases Denis’s signature concern for racial rifts, Trouble Every Day works best as an AIDS metaphor.
Newlyweds Shane (Vincent Gallo) and June Brown (Tricia Vessey) fly to Paris. Shane shares Coré’s affliction, her claustrophobia and her aversion for the capsules that seem to quench their hunger. Shane and June’s dreamy flight to the City of Love provides Shane with a plane full of meaty victims. He too is a junkie in need of a fix—he knows his place, though, skipping the feast for a shaky, come-down session in the plane’s bathroom stall. Shane’s relationship to June remains fascinatingly unspoken: her wounds (the bite on her shoulder, the mark on her upper lip) suggest he’s gone too far in the past while a jerk-off session becomes a sad reminder that their marriage must remain unconsummated. The film’s unnerving, languid pace is temporarily deadened by a superfluous subplot that finds Shane attempting to make contact with a fellow scientist.
Trouble Every Day features three incredible bloodletting sequences—one is evocatively suggestive (blades of grass tell the story of the kill), the others unbelievably grueling. The film’s final killing sequence could very well be the most brutal rape ever put to film, no so much for the graphic nature of the kill but for its many layers. In a hotel that resembles an immense mousetrap, a nosy cleaning woman toys with the fetish of being punished for overstepping her bounds. She walks through cavernous hallways, close-ups of her neck and nervous eyes seemingly implying her knowledge of the hunt. Permission turns to rape, the cat goes down, a bite is taken and the little mouse is forced to taste its own blood. Shane and June can now love again—that is, until frustrated desire beckons the next extramarital hunt.