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Claire Denis is among the greatest filmmakers working today

Vincent Gallo and Florence Loiret Caille in Trouble Every Day (2001)
Vincent Gallo and Florence Loiret Caille in Trouble Every Day (2001)

Last week, I noticed something on the streaming platform Shudder that surprised me. The site is generally known for offering horror movies, though they also bill themselves as a resource for suspense and thrillers, but really, you’re usually going there to get a little bit scared. What I didn’t expect to see is that they’d added two movies from the great French director Claire Denis.

Denis is a filmmaker who has never, ever failed to knock me flat on my rear. There’s a strength pulsing through her movies, they have a unique, fierce energy, and once you get into one you know that this is a Claire Denis film. She’s often been interested in colonialism and the immigrant experience, though that’s far from her only interest. Her electrifying 1999 movie Beau Travail, about French Foreign Legion soldiers, has a strong case for being the best film of its decade. She’s not afraid of bodies and sex, because she’s an adult, and her casting of Juliette Binoche in her last couple movies is glorious—the two are among the boldest artists working today, fearless in seemingly every way.

But I had not seen a horror movie from Claire Denis. Suspense, sure, and I thought maybe that’s what we were getting from these two movies on Shudder. And one, the 2013 movie Bastards, is just that, although it’s an astoundingly dark film that’s horrifying in its own way. The other movie though… good god.

It’s called Trouble Every Day, and, well, it’s about sex cannibals. Now, it’s still Claire Denis, this isn’t some gratuitous schlock-fest—the movie has a quiet, brooding tone, and as with many of her films, there’s not always a clear line between point A and point B. But there are also two scenes, in particular, that are as upsetting as anything I’ve seen in a long time, and one of them gave me physical shivers as it moved from tantalizing danger, to tragedy, to being sickeningly repellent. It’s simply one more example of Claire Denis’ utter lack of fear, and one more reason she’s among the greatest filmmakers working today.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.