Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trouble Every Day (2001): Diseased Society and AIDS

Trouble Every Day (2001)
dir: Claire Denis

This movie.  This fucking movie.

Oh, I've tried loving you.  And, I should love you. I mean, what other movie features vampiric cannibalism (or cannibalistic vampirism), erotic sex, scenes that have copious amounts of blood, sex scenes with copious amounts of blood, and has the audacity to use Comic Sans for both its opening and its closing credits?  What other movie decides that the monotony of science is as compelling as Vincent Gallo jerking off with an explosive cum shot that seems to think he's 20 years old, or in a Farrelly Brothers movie? Claire Denis has created a movie that should be built for me, but I just...can't...give...a...fuck.

Trouble Every Day is one of the base foundations for the New French Extremity horror movement that began in the 90s. New French Extremity is a type of horror film which kind of makes everything intimate, uses torture porn, body horror, or grand guignol, and frequently uses techniques and tones that were popular in the 1970s American horror exploitation films. NFE films are also frequently political and damning just as the 70s exploitation films could be.

Claire Denis, however, is not your traditional art director.  She is an artiste.  An auteur. In Trouble Every Day, she uses the Republican actor/director/provocateur Vincent Gallo to cement that fact. Why do I bring up Republican?  Well, the Republican party is frequently posed as the American party of rich white men posing as the party of morality. Meanwhile, the NFE movement, and Trouble Every Day is also participating in the same conversation as the New French Extremity movies, are generally anti-bourgeois in their intents.

The plot of Trouble Every Day is simultaneously not the point of the movie, and purely the point of the movie. The movie is a tale of two couples.  The first is Lou and Dore, a long-term couple where Dore has the unfortunate tendency to seek out random men and bite off their face.  Lou is a scientist trying to find the cure for that. The second is Shane (Gallo) and June, American newlyweds honeymooning in Paris.  Shane has the unfortunate tendency to seek out random women and bite off their vaginas and faces. He takes pills to reduce his urges. A salt peter for his bloodlust. And, he is a scientist who knew that Lou was working on a cure for that.

Trouble Every Day obviously is an easy metaphor for AIDS, a blood disease that can be passed through any number of methods. By fucking anonymous people, you're spreading a disease that will indeed kill them, eventually. Spreading the disease is like killing people. Except that, in Trouble Every Day, the dead people never come back to life to spread the disease. Claire Denis' version of AIDS isn't spreadable, so much as it is a death sentence.  Which is a completely naive and just plain wrong, as, in real life, the newly infected person may infect the next person before they even know they're infected.

Maybe it's not a condemnation of anonymous sex and STD spreading.  Maybe its just a metaphor for infidelity, and a condemnation of cheating.  But, really, in that reading, the person they'd be killing would be their partners, and not really the random hookup. Maybe she's using this as a metaphor for drug addiction, but I don't know that many people who seek to spread their drug addictions with anonymous strangers.

So, Trouble Every Day is a troubled movie in terms of what the clarity of its message. Maybe we're just supposed to read it as a new type of entertainment where boring shots of maids stealing and stashing single jam servings are intercut with long shots of nothing, and are now and then interrupted by bloodbaths.  Because, there is a lot of hypnotic boring nothing in between the violence. It's not even well-crafted nothingness, with the visual stimuli of Kubrick or Beyond the Black Rainbow. This is close ups of the hideous Vincent Gallo, or closeups of beakers with green fluids being stirred.

And, let's look at Vincent Gallo. He may have been cast because he might have been the only actor who was willing to jerk off and devour vaginas on screen. It's probably not a thankful part. But, good lord that asshole can't act. He's as flat and non-existent as anything I've reviewed on this site. He delivers his lines with all the life of a sheet of black construction paper. Which is an insult to the construction paper because that can at least be manipulated to make something interesting.  Gallo cannot be made into something interesting, as he's already been edited in this film! Whether that was a choice by Denis, or whether this is the result of Gallo being a terrible fucking actor is really hard to discern.

The one thing that Denis is doing to kick the bourgeois is using Comic Fucking Sans for her titles and end credits.  Yes, you read that right. Comic. Sans. She's provoking us to be pissed off, by using the most annoying font ever created to introduce a dour serious movie. Its a shot against the elitists by using the most common anti-elite font you can find on a computer.

Except, then we run back into Vincent Gallo, the Republican. He is a proud member of the party that let gays die for 7 years while they were pleading for money for AIDS research, before it was even acknowledged in speeches. This is a party that ignored AIDS, much like the scientists in this film do. And, as such, Gallo, the actor, is just as guilty of the death toll as the scientists in Trouble Every Day who don't give a shit about his disease. Claire Denis may not have cared about that association, or maybe Gallo wasn't openly a Republican when he was cast, but it puts a post-modern damper on any anti-bourgeois thoughts that she has going on in the film.

When I first saw Trouble Every Day on a shitty transfer that felt almost cam-like back in the day - it still hasn't gotten an official American DVD release - I hated the film. I thought it was dull, inane, and boring. Now that I've seen a good transfer, I can hate it on deeper levels. It's still dull, inane and boring, but it is also trite, confused, and irritating. But, it still has gorgeous bloodbaths, so I guess that's something?

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