Are love and lust mutually contradictory ideas? Hannah Arendt (quoting St. Augustine) said that to her "I love you" meant the same as "I want you to be." Just affirming other's existence seems like nothing out of ordinary but there is something much deeper in the notion. Sexual desire by its very nature seems to imply that one uses other person for one's own gratification, which in turn is the same as denying other person's autonomy and identity as a human being. This was the main problem that Kant had with sex - he thought any non-procreative sex violated one of his categorical imperatives, which says "Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end." (See here for more). He thought that recreational sex was morally permissible only under an explicit contract which to him was marriage and which he defined as, "the union of two persons of different sex for life-long reciprocal possession of their sexual faculties." Bummer, isn't it (and controversial too)?
Anyway coming back to the film in question, Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day takes the same notion of lust as extinguishing other's identity and autonomy to extremes. Actually the intellectual conceit in the film is nothing exceptional even though it may look like it at first glance. I mean one often hears the phrase "overcome by devouring lust", she just takes it to literal and very gory extremes. Yes, the film shows lust as (literal) cannibalism. Shane (played by Vincent Gallo sporting a terrific looking moustache) is in Paris for his honeymoon but there is an unspoken tension between him and his wife because they haven't consummated their marriage yet. He is harbouring a terrible secret that he can't speak of. Because of some mysterious experiment (never spelt out clearly) his sexual lust has transformed into a lust for flesh (literally). He is in Paris looking out for a certain Dr. Leos hoping to find a cure. The doctor is having a similar trouble at home because his wife Core (played by Beatrice Dalle, as usual at her nutty best) is plagued by a similar disease. She lures unsuspecting people using her body and then eats them. Talk about femme fatale!
As the story outline above would suggest the film is pretty extreme. I have seen two of her other films, Beau Travail and L'Intrus, both of which are similarly headscratching and very difficult films. Some would call her pretentious and deliberately frustrating (including me) but one can't deny the obvious skill and mastery of the craft on display. There is hardly any dialogue in this film, and even the few ones are totally non-expository. The editing is fragmented and full of narrative ellipsis so you will keep guessing what is happening and why someone is behaving the way they are. She doesn't explain anything in a straightforward manner. The other star of the film is her regular cinematographer Agnes Godard. She has such a great sense of texture and mood and beauty in surfaces. The other potentially frustrating thing would be to see it as a horror film. She does use motifs and ideas from horror genre but deliberately confounds viewer's expectations and not just because the tone is so distanced, cold and clinical. This will most certainly disappoint those who look for gore in horror films. There are actually only two scenes but both very graphic, which may inspire both disgust and laughter (at least it did to this viewer). Certainly a very interesting film and worth having an opinion on, even though one may not like it. I certainly didn't. May be David Cronenberg should have tried this idea. Crash - Part II? An essay on the film here which tries to place it in the horror genre.