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Saturday, May 10, 2014


2001, 100 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day was recently released on DVD for the first time in the United States.  The film opens with Tindersticks' brooding, jazzy rendition of Frank Zappa's "Trouble Every Day", and it set the tone for this disturbing, oblique, frustrating, yet ultimately rewarding film that only a filmmaker as skilled as Denis could pull off.  I have now seen three of Denis' films (Beau Travail, Bastards, and Trouble Every Day).  With each film, the narrative takes a back seat to the mood which makes viewing her films hypnotic experiences.

Trouble Every Day tells the story of an American, Shane (Vincent Gallo), who travels to Paris with his wife, June (Tricia Vessey), for reasons explained later.  We are also introduced to a few other characters, one of whom is a cannibal locked up by a man who appears to be her caretaker.  These story lines all intertwine over the course of the film.

The narrative of Trouble Every Day is intriguing, yet so oblique that it is borderline incoherent.  Key pieces of information are kept from the audience until late in the film (this is also the case with Bastards), so we are left in the dark for much of it.  Denis and her cinematographer, Agnes Godard, however, tease us with unusual, unsettling images, and these keep us involved

Agnes Godard's gritty cinematography is stunning.  During many of the intimate scenes, she uses 16 mm film, which makes the footage grainy, harsh, and saturated with color.  In the special feature where Godard introduces the film, she mentions that for the intimate scenes, she was incredibly close to the actors.  Though she was close, they began ignoring her because they simply got used to her being near them.

Trouble Every Day is a sex-driven cannibal film that is intermittently violent, but when it is violent, it is shockingly so.  Many have appropriately placed it in the New French Extremity film movement.  This movement consisted of a group of extremely violent French films released around the turn of the 21st Century.  Two of the most famous films from this movement are Irreversible (which I will defend any day as an excellent film) and High Tension (one of the best-crafted horror films of all time…until the final twist).  Many can dismiss the movies of the New French Extremity as nothing more than gratuitously violent pieces of trash, but if one can look past the violence, they will (frequently) find exemplary pieces of filmmaking.

Overall, Trouble Every Day is a good film that's worth seeing if you're a fan of Denis.  However, Trouble is nowhere near on the level of greatness that is Beau Travail, which many argue is not only Denis' best film, but one of the best of the past decade.  Reviled upon its initial release, Trouble Every Day has undergone a critical reevaluation and is considered by many to be Denis' most underrated film.  Whether it is or isn't a great film is up to you.  I would say it's interesting, if not great.  The DVD includes a theatrical trailer, a critical reassessment by film critic Melissa Anderson, and an audio introduction by Godard, but for fans of the film, being able to own it will be enough reason to purchase.  This release is courtesy of The Film Desk, which is, according to Indiewire, a company that is "two years old and showcases revivals of personally beloved films, great films, internationally acclaimed, with no U.S. distributor for which he [head Jacob Perlin] strikes new 35 mm prints and then showcases them in cinematheques across America, at LACMA, Film Forum, Pacific Film Archives, in art houses in Portland, Seattle, DC, Philadelphia, etc. Sometimes [Perlin] works with Janus/ Criterion."


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