Friday, February 13, 2009

The Hunger to Love

“Look into my eyes
Hear the words I can’t say “
Tindersticks, Trouble Every Day soundtrack

Do we ever really have the words to describe the depth of our passions? Both sorrow and love tend to flatten in translation from the inside out. Sometimes an unspoken moment between bodies could reveal more than any word. Claire Denis’ 2001 film, Trouble Every Day lives in the nuanced silence between intimacy and flesh to reveal a complicated view of romance.

Early in the film we are introduced to newlyweds Shane (Vincent Gallo) and June Brown (Tricia Vessey), who are hermetically sealed in an airplane as they travel to their Parisian honeymoon. The couple is passionate, but cool, as they tenderly kiss and caress one another in anticipation of nuptial bliss. Shane is dark and moody, against the shimmering paleness of his doe-like bride. We see Shane escape to the bathroom, distressed and overwhelmed by the depth of his own desire.

While Trouble Every Day is a movie about a young couple in love, it is also a terrifying monster movie. The horror is limited but intense and the film reads more like a 1970s psychic thriller. The languid pace and limited dialogue creates a terror that is as much psychological as physical. Shots of nearly empty hotel hallways and close-up following shots create a relentless sense of impending doom.

Coré (Beatrice Dalle), a woman with a voracious appetite for flesh contrasts the subtle romantic tensions of the honeymooning couple. Like the mad woman in the attic, Coré is locked away by her husband Doctor Semeneau (Alex Descas). He attempts to contain and restrain her primal urges, but his efforts prove futile to her insatiable desires. Initially Coré reads as a nymphomaniac, but horribly visceral scenes reveal that she is monster, a sort of zombie-vampire who literally devours the objects of her desire.

Though a somewhat convoluted narrative, we find that Shane worked with Semeneau and Coré in a lab that researched the human libido. Shane’s distracted moodiness and difficulties with intimacy turn to full-blown affliction. He can’t bring himself to consummate his marriage, because like Coré, he is a monster who can’t temper his hunger for flesh. He is cut off from true closeness and bound to lurid anonymous sexual encounters.

Denis leaves us with a haunting and distressing impression of desire and intimacy. In the end, June knows that something is wrong. She senses that Shane is hiding a dark secret, but she looks the other way. She doesn’t ask, because she doesn’t want to know. While Shane’s murderous ways may be extreme, the sentiment of June’s willful denial is common in relationships. Every day, women deny the bad behaviors of their abusive or unfaithful partners, in the name of love.

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