Vampirism has been made to stand as a metaphor for AIDS, capitalism, our paternalistic society, you name it. But it all reduces to one central idea: You succumb to temptation, you risk an eternity of misery. The monsters in Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day aren’t vampires, exactlythey’re more like sexual cannibals, infected with a disease that compels them literally to chew up their loversbut they carry the same symbolic weight. As they struggle to keep their desires in check, the price for some unnamed past transgression gets heavier and heavier.
Vincent Gallo and Béatrice Dalle play Shane and Coré, contaminated characters who haunt the streets of Paris, trying their best to stay hungry. They each have spouses: Coré is married to Léo (Alex Descas), a doctor colleague of Shane’s who is either working on a cure for “the sickness” or is responsible for its creation. Shane, a pharmacologist, is newly married to June (Tricia Vessey) and has taken her to Paris on their honeymoon, but he refuses to complete the sexual act with her, lest he end up tearing her flesh with his teeth.
None of the above is explained, exactly. Writer-director Deniswhose last film was the obtuse, impressionistic Melville adaptation Beau Travailtends to convert images from everyday life into abstract art, and she likes to work with as little dialogue or plot exposition as possible. It’s mood she’s after, and with the British pop orchestra Tindersticks moaning mournfully on the soundtrack, Trouble Every Day often hits the painfully sad world-weariness for which it’s shooting.
But the film isn’t masterfully controlled. There are too many long scenes of characters doing not much at all, too many repeated situations and too little information about what exactly is going onand the scenes that do partly reveal the backstory are so clumsy that it might have been preferable to maintain the mystery. I have no doubt that Denis intends to introduce these notes of tedium and confusion into her symphony of ennui; I also have no doubt that I zoned out about half a dozen times during the film’s 100 minutes.
I’m glad I stuck with Trouble Every Day, though, for the moments when performance, sound and look coalesce into something truly haunting. In the most unforgettable scene, Coré has lured a couple of young men into her spooky old boarded-up mansion, and after she’s sexed one of them up and ripped him apart, she writhes all over his bloody corpse, emitting post-orgasmic moans of satisfaction and blind affection. Suddenly, the upside of a vampire’s suffering becomes vividwe understand why it’s so hard to fight those organic urges. Had the revelation come in the middle of a more precise piece of moviemaking, it would have been even more powerful.
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