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Monthly Archives: June 2014

This week’s films(as per usual, the links lead to articles I wrote about said linked film):

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#53: A Horrible Way to Die (Dir. Adam Wingard)

#54: 5 Dolls for An August Moon (Dir. Mario Bava)

#55: I walked with a Zombie (Dir. Jacques Tourneur)

#56: The Legend of Hell House (Dir. John Hough)

#57: Psychomania (Dir. Don Sharp)
#58: Inside (Dir. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo)

Some good ones this week.  All of them really.

This is the updated lis of all of the films I’ve watched in consecutive nights in this binge–same deal with the links leading to articles:

#1: Humanoids from the Deep (Dir. Barbara Peeters)

#2: Shock (Dir. Mario Bava)

#3: Don’t Torture a Duckling (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#4: Female Vampire (Dir. Jess Franco)

#5 The Iron Rose (Dir. Jean Rollin)

#6: Alucarda (Dir. Juan López Moctezuma)

#7: Wake In Fright (Dir. Tedd Kotcheff)

#8: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska)

#9: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska) and Gore

#10: Lisa and the Devil (Dir. Mario Bava)

#11: Critters (Dir. Stephen Herek)

#12: Szamanka (Dir. Andrzej Zulawski)

#13: The Whip and the Body (Dir. Mario Bava)

#14: City of the Living Dead (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#15: White Zombie (Dir. Victor Halperin)

#16: Hardware (Dir. Richard Stanley)

#17: The New York Ripper (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

# 18: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (Dir. Dario Argento)

#19: Black Christmas (Dir. Bob Clark)

#20: The Beyond (Lucio Fulci)

#21: Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma)

#22: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (Dir. Jack Sholder)

#23: Candyman (Dir. Bernard Rose)

#24: Rosemary’s Baby (Dir. Roman Polanski)

#25: The Innocents (Dir. Jack Clayton)

#26: Phantasm (Dir Don Coscarelli)

#27: Nadja (Dir. Michael Almereyda)

#28: Baby Blood (Dir. Alain Robak)

#29: Trouble Every Day (Dir. Claire Denis)

#30: Bay of Blood (Dir. Mario Bava)

#31: In My Skin (Dir Marina de Van)

#32: Halloween III (Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)

#33: Halloween 2(Zombie) (Dir. Rob Zombie)

#34: Dark Touch (Dir. Marina De Van)

#35: Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#36: The Vanishing (Dir. George Sluizer)
#37: Living Dead Girl (Dir. Jean Rollin)
#38: Zombie (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#39: Maniac (Dir. Franck Khalfoun)
#40: Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (Dir. Roy Ward Baker)
#41: Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (Dir. John D. Hancock)

#42: Kill List (Dir. Ben Wheatley)

#43: Don’t Look Back (Dir. Marina De Van)

#44: Alligator (Dir. Lewis Teague)

#45: Ganja and Hess (Dir. Bill Gunn)

#46: The Burning (Dir. Tony Maylam)

#47: The ABCs of Death (Dir. Various)

#48: Byzantium (Dir. Neil Jordan)

#49: Cat People (Dir. Jacques Tourneur)

#50: The Curse of the Cat People (Dir. Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise)

#51: Little Deaths (Dir. Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, Simon Rumley)

#52: Marebito (Dir. Takashi Shimizu)

#53: A Horrible Way to Die (Dir. Adam Wingard)

#54: 5 Dolls for An August Moon (Dir. Mario Bava)

#55: I walked with a Zombie (Dir. Jacques Tourneur)

#56: The Legend of Hell House (Dir. John Hough)

#57: Psychomania (Dir. Don Sharp)
#58: Inside (Dir. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo)

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These are the horror films I watched this week, links go to things I wrote on some of them:

#44: Alligator (Dir. Lewis Teague)
#45: Ganja and Hess (Dir. Bill Gunn)

#46: The Burning (Dir. Tony Maylam)

#47: The ABCs of Death (Dir. Various)
#48: Byzantium (Dir. Neil Jordan)
#49: Cat People (Dir. Jacques Tourneur)
#50: The Curse of the Cat People (Dir. Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise)

#51: Little Deaths (Dir. Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, Simon Rumley)

#52: Marebito (Dir. Takashi Shimizu)

 

Here is the updated Master List of consecutive horror films I’ve watched:

#1: Humanoids from the Deep (Dir. Barbara Peeters)

#2: Shock (Dir. Mario Bava)

#3: Don’t Torture a Duckling (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#4: Female Vampire (Dir. Jess Franco)

#5 The Iron Rose (Dir. Jean Rollin)

#6: Alucarda (Dir. Juan López Moctezuma)

#7: Wake In Fright (Dir. Tedd Kotcheff)

#8: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska)

#9: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska) and Gore

#10: Lisa and the Devil (Dir. Mario Bava)

#11: Critters (Dir. Stephen Herek)

#12: Szamanka (Dir. Andrzej Zulawski)

#13: The Whip and the Body (Dir. Mario Bava)

#14: City of the Living Dead (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#15: White Zombie (Dir. Victor Halperin)

#16: Hardware (Dir. Richard Stanley)

#17: The New York Ripper (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

# 18: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (Dir. Dario Argento)

#19: Black Christmas (Dir. Bob Clark)

#20: The Beyond (Lucio Fulci)

#21: Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma)

#22: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (Dir. Jack Sholder)

#23: Candyman (Dir. Bernard Rose)

#24: Rosemary’s Baby (Dir. Roman Polanski)

#25: The Innocents (Dir. Jack Clayton)

#26: Phantasm (Dir Don Coscarelli)

#27: Nadja (Dir. Michael Almereyda)

#28: Baby Blood (Dir. Alain Robak)

#29: Trouble Every Day (Dir. Claire Denis)

#30: Bay of Blood (Dir. Mario Bava)

#31: In My Skin (Dir Marina de Van)

#32: Halloween III (Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)

#33: Halloween 2(Zombie) (Dir. Rob Zombie)

#34: Dark Touch (Dir. Marina De Van)

#35: Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#36: The Vanishing (Dir. George Sluizer)
#37: Living Dead Girl (Dir. Jean Rollin)
#38: Zombie (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#39: Maniac (Dir. Franck Khalfoun)
#40: Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (Dir. Roy Ward Baker)
#41: Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (Dir. John D. Hancock)

#42: Kill List (Dir. Ben Wheatley)

#43: Don’t Look Back (Dir. Marina De Van)

#44: Alligator (Dir. Lewis Teague)

#45: Ganja and Hess (Dir. Bill Gunn)

#46: The Burning (Dir. Tony Maylam)

#47: The ABCs of Death (Dir. Various)

#48: Byzantium (Dir. Neil Jordan)

#49: Cat People (Dir. Jacques Tourneur)

#50: The Curse of the Cat People (Dir. Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise)

#51: Little Deaths (Dir. Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, Simon Rumley)

#52: Marebito (Dir. Takashi Shimizu)

So I’ve continued to write about some of these films as I watch them, just not all of them.  So I kind of like that, I’ll just sort of randomly talk about different ones as the mood hits me.  Anyways, the above is some art I made about Living Dead Girl (Dir. Jean Rollin)

These are the films I watched this week(links go to articles I’ve written about them):

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#37: Living Dead Girl (Dir. Jean Rollin)
#38: Zombie (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#39: Maniac (Dir. Franck Khalfoun)
#40: Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (Dir. Roy Ward Baker)
#41: Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (Dir. John D. Hancock)

#42: Kill List (Dir. Ben Wheatley)

#43: Don’t Look Back (Dir. Marina De Van)

Master List:

#1: Humanoids from the Deep (Dir. Barbara Peeters)

#2: Shock (Dir. Mario Bava)

#3: Don’t Torture a Duckling (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#4: Female Vampire (Dir. Jess Franco)

#5 The Iron Rose (Dir. Jean Rollin)

#6: Alucarda (Dir. Juan López Moctezuma)

#7: Wake In Fright (Dir. Tedd Kotcheff)

#8: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska)

#9: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska) and Gore

#10: Lisa and the Devil (Dir. Mario Bava)

#11: Critters (Dir. Stephen Herek)

#12: Szamanka (Dir. Andrzej Zulawski)

#13: The Whip and the Body (Dir. Mario Bava)

#14: City of the Living Dead (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#15: White Zombie (Dir. Victor Halperin)

#16: Hardware (Dir. Richard Stanley)

#17: The New York Ripper (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

# 18: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (Dir. Dario Argento)

#19: Black Christmas (Dir. Bob Clark)

#20: The Beyond (Lucio Fulci)

#21: Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma)

#22: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (Dir. Jack Sholder)

#23: Candyman (Dir. Bernard Rose)

#24: Rosemary’s Baby (Dir. Roman Polanski)

#25: The Innocents (Dir. Jack Clayton)

#26: Phantasm (Dir Don Coscarelli)

#27: Nadja (Dir. Michael Almereyda)

#28: Baby Blood (Dir. Alain Robak)

#29: Trouble Every Day (Dir. Claire Denis)

#30: Bay of Blood (Dir. Mario Bava)

#31: In My Skin (Dir Marina de Van)

#32: Halloween III (Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)

#33: Halloween 2(Zombie) (Dir. Rob Zombie)

#34: Dark Touch (Dir. Marina De Van)

#35: Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#36: The Vanishing (Dir. George Sluizer)
#37: Living Dead Girl (Dir. Jean Rollin)
#38: Zombie (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#39: Maniac (Dir. Franck Khalfoun)
#40: Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (Dir. Roy Ward Baker)
#41: Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (Dir. John D. Hancock)

#42: Kill List (Dir. Ben Wheatley)

#43: Don’t Look Back (Dir. Marina De Van)

Mazeworld is a comic about a murderous villain who right at the moment of his execution by hanging, is transported to a fantastic labyrinthine world of mazes, called Mazeworld.  He is somehow able to survive his hanging and living a state of suspended animation as a kind of human guinea pig–he floats in between the two worlds, one where he is a hero, the other where he is a cowardly villain.  The comic is written by Alan Grant, with Arthur Ranson supplying the art.  It is currently available in a collected edition from 2000AD, wherever fine comics are blah.

And while the story overall of Mazeworld is interesting in a kind of 80s technogreed fantastic world building kind of way–the reason why one would read Mazeworld would be to take in the wonderful work by Arthur Ranson.  And while even of the limited Ranson that I’ve been able to read, Mazeworld isn’t the most impressive work(I think the Judge Anderson stuff is more fantastic, and Shamballa in particular seems to play to all of Ranson’s strengths as an artist).  It is certainly remarkable in it’s own right, and I thought would be a good sampling to serve as an introduction to the more interesting qualities of what Ranson has to say as an artist.

I think with Ranson while there is a side to his work that is wonderfully psychedelic in it’s design and execution–that kind of plays out like a more in control form of what you might see from a Druillet comic–I think principally the most interesting discussion to dive into with regards to Ranson is his execution of photo-realism, and how even though he is using a photo-realist style, he is able to create extremely dynamic movement and imagery on the page.

I think Ranson does a good job of exposing how photo-realism is being misused currently in the superhero comics in which it is currently a fairly huge influence.  I think for the most part there has been a confusion that simply making something look like it is real, even though it is a drawing, is a quality of great art, and not simply an exercise in technique sans vision.  Someone like Ranson even though his art is photo-real, is still expressing a strong point of view as an artist.  And even though photo-realism is a quality that you can use to describe his art, I would almost say it is the least consequential in terms of why these comics pages are working.

With Ranson there are sort of two main rails on which his work succeeds, and that is texture and movement.  The former is less complex to unravel than the latter, which is I think a multi-layered thing in and of itself.  And it is actually his eye for this last thing, movement, that really creates the special moments in Arthur Ranson comics.

Anyways.  To examine these points, I’ve chosen a three page section from the middle of Mazeworld where the hooded man(seen wearing a hood) and Dark Man(guess which one he is) are having a bit of the old smashy stabby high up on this sort of wooden pier.

Image

So since it’s the more basic aspect of Ranson’s photorealism, I’ll address it quickly and first.  The textural element.  So even though these images are photorealist–Ranson’s hatching, which vascilates between smaller clusters of ticks, and longer ropier marks creates a certain voice and individuality in just the rendering that might be lost simply throwing down some blacks, or using just one stable style of hatching.  So like the smaller more sort of moebiusy ticks that he uses for the Hooded Man’s skin is contrasted against the ropier 70s ish lines used for the bridge–these kind of ropier textures have all but died out in mainstream contemporary comics, despite being very much in vogue for what…2 decades with artists ranging from Bernie Wrightson to Jose Gonzalez to Esteban Marotto to even someone like Neal Adams.  Added against this are these longer more singular lines which you can see really well in the last panel for the top of the deck where they contrast against the tighter technique used to shadow the hand.  I love these lines because if you look at each one individually–it’s just so human.  A machine didn’t make this.  This is the chaos of the human hand.  Every one of those lines is a man’s life, and seeing each one sort of pull out is just always really wonderful to see.  

But more than that, the conjunction of these different rendering styles allow for a greater sense of texture and feel.  Wood looks different than skin than cloth–it looks different to our eyes, there is contrast–and this allows us to feel the difference too.  

 

Image

The second principal element to notice with Ranson is movement–or more, how he captures movement.  One of the issues with photorealism is that oftentimes the reality of the images cause us to slow down too much(generally because our eye is looking for all of the ways in which it isn’t real) to be able to perceive the movement necessary for the kind of dynamism that makes action comics fun to read.

There are two main ways that Ranson combats this stiffness.  One is control of his camera.  And the second is his overall page composition.

So for the first point, notice in that bottom row of three panels and how he pans out and shifts over on Dark Man’s choke hold on the Hooded Man.  This accomplishes a few things.  It allows you to pull out and get a beginning sense of scale.  In the first panel the two characters take up 90 percent of the panel, in the second panel 70 percent of the panel is now the drop they are fighting over.  This movement is coupled with capturing Hooded man’s kick to Dark man’s back.  It is absolutely the perfect choice of shot to bridge the two bottom panels, because as we see in the final panel, the kick has knocked both characters off of the deck.  And now the proportion of characters to fall is inverted from the first of the three panels.  And dramatically this has all been set up because of that third panel, and the bottom left to top right angularity of the movement of those bottom three panels.

The drop literally rushes up to you as a reader.  Which is what allows you to feel the downward pull of that last panel.

Consider if Ranson had instead chosen another close-up for that second panel along the same plane as the preceding panel.  So like if you saw from behind them instead, so you could see more of Hooded Man’s Kick up close–suddenly you have completely lost that build up and you would just jolt from fight to fall with no real connective tissue.

Besides that, Ranson not only knows where to put his camera, he knows when to snap it too.  So in that second panel the leg kick hasn’t yet hit Dark Man.  In fact, we never really see it hit him.  We simply see it about to connect and then the result—which makes the impact occur in our imagination–which again makes it more dynamic than if he had shot that image just a few second later.   And then look at the last panel, they’re not completely off of the deck.  Hoodedman’s foot is still attached–so this is literally the most terrifying point of the fall–they’re going over, and they’ve just realized they’re going over–it is the exact middle point between losing balance and falling.  This gives a tension to the image that wouldn’t be as palpable if he had drawn them just a foot farther in their fall.

The other thing to notice, which  gets us into how page design helps in all of this–is the overall construction of this page.  Six vertical panels.  Basic grid. The simplicity of the grid allows for the page’s movement to instead be dictated by the overall composition of the page, which Ranson is modulating through his camera.  It would get confusing if he was hitting you with a complex layout AND spinning his camera around.  Or if not confusing–you can say that the simplistic grid brings emphasis to these other elements.  So you have this Z-shaped movement that you also see prominently in something like a Sergio Toppi comic–so you have this sort of two planed page where the interiors of the panels are diagonalizing bottom left to top right, and then reset down into the next row which then repeats the action.  So it’s by this mastery of the basic storytelling elements that the complexities of Ranson’s imagemaking can be appreciated in their fullness.

 

Image

This page brings up the last aspect of Ranson’s art which combines both movement and texture–and that is his coloring.  Ranson uses a subtlety with his brush strokes and a good balance between the dimensionality of that blue background, and the flatter foreground elements of the characters and cliff.  He’s not giving you too much visual information in how he is rendering his colors to overwhelm his overarching composition and textural elements.  And that stark blue background really pops out the foregrounded characters in an extremely severe way which doesn’t allow them to sort of muddy in together, which is something you see a lot from even the best colorists in today’s comics, where there’s no contrast between background and foreground.  Here, even though the hooded man is also wearing blue, you never lose him against that blue backdrop.  That wonderful black shadow that Ranson puts in over the Hooded Man’s blue clothes pretty much is there to assure that.  Additionally here we have the third vertical panel which flips to the all white cloud–serving as a moment hovering on the page, before the two characters fall through the clouds in the final image.  So much of the dynamism of this page is coming from the strong dictation of values and contrast by Ranson in terms of his colors.

I think in general Ranson’s palette as an artist is really interesting because while it does have a certain ostentation, it is very restrained too.  His work is never plastic, and it has almost a Hal Foster Prince Valiant sensibility(which with Mazeworld I’m sure is a reference).  The danger with his palettes would be just falling into the kind of muddy bleh that would become a staple in 90s vertigo comics.  Ranson has just enough pop to his color that he actually is able to express things just on that level.

It also illustrates one of the ways that modern photorealist comics are ruined, which is by the overly plasticy rendering of muddy dark colors with very little contrast.  By forcing so much visual puke on the page, your eye is really unable to process the complexities or beauty of what is actually in front of you.  Modern photorealism + modern coloring in contemporary comics is anti-art.  Something like Bryan Hitch’s work on the Ultimates isn’t designed for you to see his art as art.  But rather, it’s literally meant to be glossed over–your eye slides off of one panel to the next.  Composition is largely dictated instead by lettering and the basic cohesion of it’s simplistic story.

A page like this is intrinsically not designed for you to be able to see it:

 

It’s only two panels, but if you tried to diagram it’s composition it would look like you were having some kind of seizure.  Gone is the textural separations of Ranson’s reality.  The more considered values of Ranson’s palette.  The elegant composition.  Pages like this are fundamentally why nobody bothers with saying artist’s names in reviews anymore.  And I’m not making a qualitative judgement on whether this is good or bad.  I actually liked the Ultimates, and enjoyed Hitch’s art–but I’m just talking about that it is not fundamentally designed for you to appreciate or even see the artist.  The whole emphasis on a page like this is the storytelling beat–the page is a placeholder for that.  You don’t feel anything about this world.  Everything is made from the same material.  Rocks, leather, cloth, skin–it’s all just a plastic mud that combined with it’s photo-realistic style puts too much visual information on the page for a human being to appreciate, particularly in a comic where the next page is very much like this one, and on and on and on.  It’s anti-artist work.

Anyways…meanwhile:

You hang one of these pages up in a book, I bet they won’t forget to put your name in the review.

Image

So I’m changing things up this week.  After a month of not only watching a horror movie every day, but also writing a 1000-2500 word article on each film each day, I realized that was crazy.  So what I’m doing now is keeping a running list, and each week I’ll update the list.  In addition, I’ll do a little bit of art based around my favorite film or films from that week.  Obviously this week was all about Marina De Van’s movies In My Skin and Dark Touch, both which pretty much floored me.  Oddly I stopped writing about these movies when I got to these films.  But I think at some point I might like to write a long piece on her films since there’s only one left for me to see, and so far I’ve found them all hugely inspiring and very useful with what I do with my art.

Anyways.

This week’s update(links go to the articles I wrote on each film):

6-1
Nadja (Dir. Michael Almereyda)

Baby Blood (Dir. Alain Robak)
Trouble Every Day (Dir. Claire Denis)

Bay of Blood (Dir. Mario Bava)

In My Skin (Dir Marina de Van)
Halloween III (Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)
Halloween 2(Zombie) (Dir. Rob Zombie)
Dark Touch (Dir. Marina De Van)
Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

The Vanishing (Dir. George Sluizer)

 

Master List:
#1: Humanoids from the Deep (Dir. Barbara Peeters)
#2: Shock (Dir. Mario Bava)
#3: Don’t Torture a Duckling (Dir. Lucio Fulci)
#4: Female Vampire (Dir. Jess Franco)

#5 The Iron Rose (Dir. Jean Rollin)
#6: Alucarda (Dir. Juan López Moctezuma)
#7: Wake In Fright (Dir. Tedd Kotcheff)
#8: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska)
#9: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska) and Gore
#10: Lisa and the Devil (Dir. Mario Bava)
#11: Critters (Dir. Stephen Herek)
#12: Szamanka (Dir. Andrzej Zulawski)

#13: The Whip and the Body (Dir. Mario Bava)
#14: City of the Living Dead (Dir. Lucio Fulci)
#15: White Zombie (Dir. Victor Halperin)
#16: Hardware (Dir. Richard Stanley)
#17: The New York Ripper (Dir. Lucio Fulci)
# 18: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (Dir. Dario Argento)
#19: Black Christmas (Dir. Bob Clark)

#20: The Beyond (Lucio Fulci)
#21: Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma)
#22: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (Dir. Jack Sholder)
#23: Candyman (Dir. Bernard Rose)
#24: Rosemary’s Baby (Dir. Roman Polanski)
#25: The Innocents (Dir. Jack Clayton)
#26: Phantasm (Dir Don Coscarelli)
#27: Nadja (Dir. Michael Almereyda)

#28: Baby Blood (Dir. Alain Robak)
#29: Trouble Every Day (Dir. Claire Denis)

#30: Bay of Blood (Dir. Mario Bava)

#31: In My Skin (Dir Marina de Van)
#32: Halloween III (Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)
#33: Halloween 2(Zombie) (Dir. Rob Zombie)
#34: Dark Touch (Dir. Marina De Van)
#35: Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#36: The Vanishing (Dir. George Sluizer)

 

This is an entry from my series of horror movie a day write-ups and viewings.  I excerpted it because, well just because.

This is kind of a new thing for my horror movie a day ritual I’ve been writing through(Day 29!), in that I’m actually re-watching something I’ve already seen.  But this week I watched the incredibly brilliant, and worth your 5 bucks, lecture on the New French Extremity by Alexandra West (of the also brilliant faculty of horror podcast).  I realized even more than ever how much affection I have for these films, particularly the horror off-shoots.  It was also really interesting to me because Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day was placed within this movement which for some reason I had never really thought about.

Trouble Every Day is a film directed by Claire Denis, starring Alex Descas, Beatrice Dalle, Vincent Gallo, and Tricia Vessey.  It is the story of two couples whose lives have are infected by this horrible virus which causes Gallo and Dalle to crave blood and human flesh.  It is a story about science, nature, men, women, disease, space, vampirism, hysteria—all of these things.

I saw Trouble Every Day before I was cognizant of the New French Extremity Horror films.  I remember when I first watched it, it was I think the spring of 2002, because it came out in May of 2001—and I remember watching it in my college dorm room, I guess this would have been my freshmen year, and I was such a baby then.  I hadn’t come out yet, and in terms of film, netflix and the internet had both gotten to the point to where I could really fall down through film history at that time.  My school was also right across the street from a blockbuster—and I remember I would get out of class on one end of campus, and then with my headphones on and hood up, walk the length of the campus to the Blockbuster to get a new movie—and I remember sometimes I would even be sick with fever, and still feel that walk was worth my while.

So what I’m saying is I saw this film long before I could ever sort of understand it in any context, but also during an extremely formative time personally.  My mom and step-dad had gotten divorced, 9/11 happened, my dad who had been against me going to college was terrorizing me via email such that I completely cut him out of my life.  I also had my first major suicide attempt that fall—where I completely mutilated my right arm—but in the end didn’t rupture anything enough that I got sent to the hospital, and in fact, it would be two more years before I would actually get committed after another botched attempt, this time involving sleeping pills.

When I think about Trouble Every Day, I think very much of this time.  And I remember too, that one of the reasons I was so rabid to see it is that I had an incredible crush on Vincent Gallo after Buffalo 66, and then getting into his music, and his art, and the things he would write or say—his perrrrfect body and eyes…maybe I do still have a huge crush on Gallo(maybe nothing!).  I actually watched that terrible movie he made with Courtney Cox—like I pretty much tried to watch whatever looked like a decently sized role for Gallo at the time.  Which led me to Trouble Every Day which also starred Beatrice Dalle who I knew from Betty Blue, and who I knew before I knew Charlotte Gainsbourg, or before I knew Isabelle Adjani—I find these women in their films express often things that I feel inside of myself, but feel too strangled by my own body and mind to be able to articulate.


I say these things intending to get the point where I talk about Trouble Every Day—but I think even though it is all unimportant in the end, I think that the way that art can form a life long symbiotic relationship with you is one of the more addictive properties which exceed art’s properties towards the sublime.  Maybe it is the relationship of the post-sublime—the shadow of the great experience, that you carry yourself under forever and ever until you go mad.

So it was really interesting to come back to this film.  I don’t know that I’ve even watched it in full since the early 2000s.  I used to have a bootleg copy of the film because for the longest time I don’t think it was really available.  I also had an imported copy of the Tindersticks soundtrack.

It’s interesting to come back around on Trouble Every Day post-Possession, and post the rest of the New French Extremity of Horror.  I remember at the time, I was somewhat ashamed by my inability to articulate why I loved this film, or maybe I was ashamed that I loved it.  Much of the critical writing I had access to at the time absolutely blasted the film, and it is not the kind of film you test on mixed company when you are young and uncertain.  Particularly if you are closeted and part of your analysis is just wanting to jump Vincent Gallo’s bones.

Watching it now as a slightly more developed human(or maybe less developed—who knows)—I’m struck by just how powerful the film is.  Even after all of these years.  In fact, my experience watching it today, may have even been more invigorating.  Agnes Godard absolutely paints this film.  Her color palette, composition—it has this restrained consideration—she just creates this coolness which is also sharp edged and violent—but it is not the sensation of violence as a staccato rhythmed punchline.  Godard shoots the body like a landscape, and violence like a slow-moving thunderstorm moving across the plains.

There is a scene in this where Dalle is having sex with this boy who has broken into her room and the way the camera moves languidly up and down the boy’s body—his flesh this dappled pink and red with oasis’s of hair pooled around his arms and chest—and the way that Dalle presses her flesh into his, is like watching a python constrict around a lamb.  And almost imperceptibly the scene shifts from something as beautiful as two people finding a peace between themselves—to apocalypse.  Dalle starts eating the boy’s flesh, eating him piece by piece, his screams mirroring orgasm at first, before turning into complete horror.  The way that she chews up his face, keeping him alive listening to the rattling of his breath, slapping his skin to keep the blood flowing—it is what I mean when I saw that true beauty is horrific.  If you can watch the scene without turning away, it is something you will never be able to see expressed this well.


Dalle is communicating this insatiable hunger, this pain that makes her want to die every second of her life with this disease—finding the release that her husband doctor denies her, and the boy who came up the tower to rescue the princess, who came up the tower to fuck the princess, who thought that he knew her pain—he enters this house, he breaks into it, thinking he understands what it is she wants.  He thinks that she wants what he can give her, which is true—but not in the totality of her terms.  The totality of her terms is not something he can bear or that his body can survive.

One of the great performances in this film, besides Dalle and Gallo is the doctor played by Alex Descas.  It is his creation which has infected both Dalle and Gallo—and he is so horrified by what he has done to his wife, what he has found in her, that he has to board her up in the attic.  Which is of course the archetype going back to at least Jane Eyre and then later the Yellow Wallpaper.

What’s interesting with Descas is that he absolutely has no control over Dalle.  He locks her behind boards, and metal bars every night—he gives her pills that she does not take.  Every night she escapes and kills.  Every night he goes out, and hides what she has done, and then locks her up again before leaving her alone in her prison that he has made for her.  But this prison is only the illusion of his control.  The idea that his science can control her nature.

The bars themselves are a defeat for Descas.  He is a man of science, and for all of his science he has to resort to bars and boarded up doors.  Dalle asks him to let her die, to let her end the agony she experiences, and the monster she has become.  But even that he cannot do.  His own hubris won’t allow him to admit defeat to her nature.  Beyond that, I think that his love for her is another cage he has built for her.  He loves her, but only on his terms.  On the safe grounds where he feels that he has control and can avoid contamination.  He won’t give himself over to her fully.  This is deep fucking tragedy.

Descas and Dalle are mirrored against another couple played by Vincent Gallo and Triccia Vessey whose situation is somewhat reversed, but a lot of the same issues come to the fore which I think illustrate that it isn’t merely Dalle’s illness that is the core of this horror, but rather man’s relationship to woman.

With Gallo and Vessey, it is Gallo who has the virus and the insatiable blood lust.  He has just married Vessey, and they have come to Paris for their honeymoon, though secretly it is also for Gallo to try and find Descas so he can hopefully find a cure for his disease.  Gallo is absolutely petrified of losing control and either infecting or killing his wife.  At one point he is locked in an airplane bathroom fantasizing about Vessey covered in blood.

As with Descas, Gallo’s issues are those of control.  Though he doesn’t lock Vessey up in an attic—he locks her away from himself in every way that matters—in fact over and over again when he is faced with the possibility of giving up his control over to Vessey he has to run and lock himself in a bathroom.  Gallo like Descas is a man of science, and as with Descas he seeks to deny his nature, to control it with locks and bars—and as with Descas both end up hurting the woman they are in love with.

There’s a great scene where Gallo and Vessey are about to consummate their marriage, and right before Gallo gives over—in a scene that we think mirrors Dalle’s earlier scene with the boy—he gets up and runs into the bathroom locks the door, and masturbates furiously to his own reflection until he empties himself into the mirror while his wife pleads with him from the other side of the door.

The mirroring between the two couples doesn’t end there.  Gallo still taken over by his bloodlust, and unwilling to trust himself in his wife’s control—disappears from her for a night and a day.  He roams the french subways creeping on women, before finally settling on one of the maids at the the hotel who he attacks, rapes and kills.


It’s interesting to contrast this with the boy who Dalle eats.  With Dalle it is the boy who has broken into her house, and come into her bedroom with the desire to fuck.  Prince Charming in some ways, simple house burglar in another.  But the contrast is quite striking.  Gallo when he goes after the maid invades HER space.  He attacks her.  Dalle manipulates this same kind of male invasion to bring men to their bloody end.  Even though Dalle and Gallo are both ostensibly murdering innocents—the nature of how their predatory instincts work is completely opposite and completely entwined.  In the end, these innocent people, male and female are all dying because of this cycle of male privilege of female space.  It infects us all.

Beyond all of this though is the pure aesthetic of a bloodied Dalle walking across a bloody mural down the bloody stairs—Dalle descending the stairs is one of the most brutal and harrowing things you’ll see.  And the way Denis frames it with Gallo watching broken in the shadows—seeing in her, his own sins and his own horrifying end.  But as with Descas he can’t accept it.  And after choking out Dalle and leaving her to the flames she has desired all film, he retreats back to his wife, and his own hellish future that he knows is coming, but refuses still to accept.  And we know that, as with Descas, there in the flames waiting for Dalle, Gallo will drag this woman he loves down with him as well.

Further reading: The Cages of Pretty Deadly