Saturday, April 15, 2006

Vamp or Not? Trouble Every Day

“Trouble Every Day” (2001) is a film directed by Claire Denis and is bilingual, being in French and English. It is here that I must admit that I struggled with the movie. The DVD case showed languages French and English and subtitles part English. That was fair enough; I do not speak French, and so dutifully tried to put the part English subtitles on, to find they were not there. Fearing that it was something to do with my home player I then put the DVD into the PC, but the subtitles definitely did not exist.

However, lack of subtitles did not overtly detract from the film, as there was very little dialogue – though I feared I missed some exposition, so I have looked through various reviews on the net and discovered that one complaint of the film is there is very little explanation of the events which unfold and that people are torn between whether this is a cannibal film or a modern take on vampirism.

The film centres around two couples. Shane (Vincent Gallo) and June (Tricia Vessey) are newly weds, travelling to Paris for their honeymoon. We meet them on the flight where, after kissing up June’s arm, Vincent locks himself in the plane’s toilet and fantasises about June drenched in blood.

The other couple are Léo (Alex Descas) and Coré (Béatrice Dalle). At first we only see Coré, as she picks up a lorry driver. Later Léo finds her, the driver is dead, trousers around his ankles and she is covered in blood.

Shane has ulterior motives for going to Paris. He is searching for Léo, who he used to work with. They were researching the human libido and, it seems, that Shane stole some of Léo’s research. It is also clear that Shane was enamored of Coré. Shane cannot find Léo, who no longer works at the research lab and is shunned by the scientific community, and his urge to devour June is growing.

Why Coré and Shane feel the things they do was unclear, to me, however online there was suggestion that a virus was involved. The film goes on for some time, without a large amount happening. June feels rejected by Shane, whilst Shane becomes more and more predatory. Léo keeps Coré locked in their home, yet she is able to escape – she actually tools a door to cut an escape route out at one point and Léo buries her victim and cleans her up.

There are two powerful feeding scenes in the film. Two young lads break into Léo’s home. One is “seduced” by Coré – I put seduced in inverted commas because there seemed little seduction, he was almost drawn to her, perhaps whatever happened to her caused her to produce pheromones aplenty, but it was reminiscent of the victim drawn to the vampire. As she rides him, she bites into his neck; she also tears away part of his lips. She grunts orgasmically and he cries, screams and whimpers in a way that can only be described as primal. He is clearly dying as she rubs her cheek through his blood in an almost feline way and laps at it. Later we see that she has painted the walls in blood.

The other scene involves Shane and a chambermaid. He approaches her in the staff changing area and, at first, she seems to respond to him. As his actions become more violent it is clear that the scene becomes less and less mutual until it is rape. He puts his head between her legs, as she screams and screams, and when he emerges his face is dripping with blood. Then he begins to kiss her face.

In both cases there is very little which is cannibalistic, this would not be problematic anyway as some vampire myths show the vampire as a devourer of flesh as well as blood. The motif here is blood. When Shane fantasizes about the blood-drenched June, she is very much alive, just soaked in blood. It is clear that both characters have either been altered or contracted a virus that causes them to need blood in a sexual way, it clearly links the sexuality found in vampire stories with the act of feeding. As Shane battles with his nature he becomes more and more predatory, not wishing to hurt June he turns his attention to strangers.

In both Shane and Coré we also see them at their happiest after the feed, finally sated. Yet, through Coré, we see that the satisfaction is short lived. We see the need to feed, the need for gratification, is like a drug. We see her frustration when she cannot get out of the house in order to sate her hunger.

Is this a vampire movie? Not in the ordinary sense, but it definitely carries motifs from the genre. Indeed, if we look at “Fascination” (1979) then we find a movie – classed most definitely within the genre – that depicts humans with the compunction to drink blood, a movie with cannibalistic overtones. In “Fascination” the symbolism is clearly one designed to represent class, whilst “Trouble Every Day” does not have a clear symbolism – is it about addiction or about sexuality, I’m not too sure – though an understanding of the French sections would have helped.

Many would not want to class this as a genre movie, and to do so might seem controversial, and yet I intend to do so. The film itself is slow paced and I would say of average quality, it felt much like a David Lynch movie in places, most especially “Lost Highway” (1997), yet with none of the power that film carried. There are, however, some beautifully poetic images within the movie and the soundtrack fits the piece well.

It is clear that the language barrier that I felt was not the main confusion with the film; others online have said that Denis explained little in the film and the film had no clear path. Yet within the film is the essence, or at least one interpretation thereof, of the motivation of the vampire. The need to feed, the sexuality of the kill, the pain of the need as it drives you to wish to consume your closest partner, the satisfaction following the feed. It is also an external factor that has caused this desire, this is not the mutual psychosis of a couple, though Shane and Coré knew each other, they are not feeding on each others psychosis. There is a factor here that has caused them to change, to become the way they are. For these reasons I say Vamp.

IMDB page is here.

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