Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day is a perverse and challenging tale, a uniquely sensual metaphorical dramatization of sexual obsession that spends a bit too much time on its fairly ludicrous plot. Denis has earned her reputation as a critics' darling with visually compelling and thoughtful films like Beau Travail, and has dealt with similar dark subject matter, though in a far more detached and less graphic way, in the serial killer drama I Can't Sleep. It's safe to say that, despite many esthetic similarities to her earlier films (elliptically presented narrative, little dialogue, sumptuously intimate visuals), Trouble represents new territory for the filmmaker. Denis is clearly unconcerned with genre conventions, and her film doesn't adhere to the traditional rhythms of the horror film. Her focus is not on suspense or narrative drive (the narrative gets in the way every time it rears its ugly head), but on animal lust as human disease and its analogous resolution in the consumption of human flesh. Vincent Gallo, with his grungy hangdog looks, and Beatrice Dalle (Betty Blue), with her uniquely feral facial features, are perfectly cast as the afflicted carnivores. As their respective spouses, fragile beauty Tricia Vessey and stoic Alex Descas do solid work. Unfortunately, the inanity of the story makes it impossible to view these characters as people. They function better as metaphors. The film's truly gruesome and extremely unnerving sex scenes, including Gallo's dalliance with a hotel chambermaid and especially Dalle's seduction of a teenage delinquent, push the film into new territory, literalizing sexual appetite in a visceral way. You expect Denis to cut away from the blood and gore, but she lingers on it like a lover cuddling up after sex. These scenes are powerful -- dark, erotic, and even funny, if viewed from the remote perspective Denis' approach fosters.