The list of the worst films of 2002 has just grown markedly with the release of the new picture from Claire Denis, whose stifling modernization of “Billy Budd,” “Beau Travail” (2000), certainly merited the second word of the title but not the first. A repulsively stupid hodgepodge of violence and sex, “Trouble Every Day” might well be renamed “Misery Every Minute”–at least from the viewer’s perspective. And there are 101 of them.
The movie is about cannibalism, but it’s told in a fractured style and at a snail’s pace; the combination makes it virtually unendurable. Various groups of characters may be noted. There’s the gloomy, distracted Shane Brown (Vincent Gallo), a newlywed who comes to Paris with his blushing bride June (Tricia Vessey). Then there’s Core (Beatrice Dunn), who’s locked up in an isolated mansion by Leo (Alex Descas), an impassive black dude, after she murders a truck driver she’s seduced along the road. There are also a couple of young housebreakers who find their way into the mansion, with unhappy result, and a hotel maid, Christelle (Florence Loiret-Caille), who’s involved with Leo and coincidentally services the floor Shane and June are on.
There’s a story of sorts that comes gradually into focus (after more than half an hour of deliberately impenetrable scenes)–it involves Shane trying to find Leo, who turns out to be a doctor who’s absconded with the results of some medical experiments in which both Core and Shane were involved, and the effects of which they’re suffering. But the plot, such as it is, is just an excuse for a series of sequences that are either idiotic (Shane converses with a researcher who’s cutting up a human brain and apparently experimenting on parts of it in a blender), repugnant (Core deals with one of the housebreakers in a combination intercourse-cum-meal episode that’s reminiscent of, though far uglier than, the scene in which Grace Jones rubs out Robert Rusler in 1986’s “Vamp”) or simply boring (Shane and June loll on the parapets of Notre Dame cathedral and make funny faces at one another). It’s hard to speak of a jumbled mess like this as an entity, but as a whole “Trouble Every Day” is simultaneously deadly dull and aggressively aggravating. Apparently it wants to set up some sort of silly equivalency between sex (emotional “devouring”) and cannibalism (physical “devouring”), but attempting to unravel any deep message is to treat the picture far more seriously than it deserves. It strives to be Cronenberg but seems more like early Tobe Hooper.
All of the cast look intensely sad–understandable under the circumstances–but Gallo surely takes the cake for moroseness. As for Dalle, she’s stuck with the most unsavory material in the ghastly brew–which is saying quite a lot. At one point her character says simply, “I want to die,” and curiously enough you’re likely to know precisely how she feels.