Double Exposure: Fall/Winter 2013-2014

Page 22

lovethirsty animals taking another bite out of Trouble Every Day

by g u s r e e d



wo lovers sit in the back of a car. the man arches his body over the woman’s so that, as their lips meet again and again, their faces blur into a single void. A handheld camera observes them through the car’s window, intruding on this cloistered moment of intimacy with an uneasily long take that seems to droop with the very effort of looking. In another horror film, this point of view might belong to a psychopath about to smash through the glass with a hatchet. In Trouble Every Day (2001), directed and co-written by Claire Denis, this opening image, with no further incident, fades to black. There’s no grand reveal or shift in identification to hide the fact that we, the viewers, are staring at these lovers with our own mixture of desire and apprehension. In the meantime, Tindersticks, Denis’s frequent soundtrack band of choice, plays a brooding, lovelorn ballad: “Look into my eyes, you see trouble every day…” We never meet this couple again, and don’t immediately realize that their kiss—which etches a frail boundary between ordinary affection and dangerous hunger—has quietly warned us of horrors to come. Trouble Every Day is an outlier among outliers in Claire Denis’ diverse body of work. Too oblique and impressionistic to satisfy (or even reach) a wide horror audience and yet too graphically shocking for many critics and art-house viewers to stomach, it was more or less disregarded as a rare misfire from one of contemporary cinema’s most interesting minds—a Frankenstein monster that never quite lurched to life. It