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Trouble Every Day
cast: Vincent Gallo, Beatrice Dalle, Tricia Vessey, Alex Descas, and Florence Loiret-Caille

director: Claire Denis

97 minutes (18) 2002 widescreen ratio 16:9
Tartan DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Jeff Young
Art cinema and genre material rarely get on well together. Claire Denis (not to be confused with actress Claire Danes) is director of the widely acclaimed Chocolat (no, the other one, made in 1988) and Beau Travail (1999) and has an anecdotal yet subtle technique when exploring frustrated passion and modern romantic entanglements, but she seems rather out of her depth here with a borderline SF-shocker. Essentially, Trouble Every Day (aka: Gargoyle) is akin to an early David Cronenberg "body horror" movie. It's a low-budget mystery-drama in which some ordinary people are tragically damaged as a result of their involvement in amoral biological experiments gone awry.
   Newlyweds Shane (Vincent Gallo, from Matthew Bright's offbeat Freeway II: Confessions Of A Trickbaby, 1999) and June (Tricia Vessey) arrive at a hotel in Paris for their honeymoon. And, true to the film's title, there's a brittleness and distance between the supposedly happy couple, as if their marriage is getting off to a rocky start. Shane pays inordinate attention to the chambermaid, as does the occasionally voyeuristic camera, which documents everyday activities - unlocking doors, petty theft, dressing for work - in rather annoying and seemingly pointless detail. Of course, Denis is setting things up with extraordinary care, building up an atmosphere of unease and quiet dread. However, there's almost no exposition, only bewildering hints (urgent phone calls to a clinic), trace evidence (nightmare flashbacks of a woman drenched in blood), and evocative imagery (the slicing up of brain tissue for analysis), so viewers must guess at the significance of young and petite June's anxious expressions, and lanky Shane's guardedly meaningful looks. Also involved, without giving too much away, there's darkly mysterious and suspicious hitchhiker, Coré (Beatrice Dalle, as enigmatic and haunted as ever), locked in her bedroom by her doctor-husband, while two housebreakers lurk outside...
   The main problem with the film is that Denis avoids all of the customary genre conventions, adopting an unfortunately dismal and pretentious approach that's bereft of excitement or persuasive intrigue. We realise that Coré is a serial killer, driven to lure men to their deaths, and that poor doomed Shane is edging slowly down the same path to insane acts of sexual violence, and yet, unlike similarly themed cult movies (George A. Romero's The Crazies, 1973, or Cronenberg's Shivers, aka: The Parasite Murders, 1974), Denis is so determined to steer well clear of presenting anything that resembles a standard plot, concentrating instead upon offering mere glimpses of the grim and gross stuff craved by most genre fans, that the overall impact of Trouble Every Day is diverted into just a couple of later scenes.
   Although the mise-en-scène of true graphic horror here is, thankfully at least, well achieved within the context of the film, the grisly shocks arrive too late to save viewers (whether horror fans or not) from suffering over an hour's worth of boredom.
   Tartan's DVD is an anamorphic transfer with Dolby digital sound and English subtitles (probably required for French dialogue scenes). Disc extras include star and director filmographies, director's commentary, film notes by Sloan Freer.
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