Combustible Celluloid
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With: Katerina Golubeva, Richard Courcet, Vincent Dupont, Laurent Grevill, Ira Mandella-Paul, Alex Descas, Irina Grjebina, Tolsty, Patrick Grandperret, Sophie Simon, Line Renaud, Beatrice Dalle
Written by: Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau
Directed by: Claire Denis
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 110
Date: 05/18/1994

I Can't Sleep (1994)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Cold Serial

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Set in and around a Paris hotel, I Can't Sleep focuses on several of the building's inhabitants as they go about their daily lives, contemplating work, relationships and new places to live. Claire Denis, the director of the masterworks Beau Travail (1999) and Friday Night (2003), is so good at quietly capturing small, slow rhythms and fuzzy, dreamy moments that I Can't Sleep already succeeds all on its own.

The catch is that two of the characters are serial killers who prey on defenseless old ladies. Denis follows these two as they soullessly go about their routine, stepping over dead bodies and poking around apartments as if they were potential renters. While she tries her best to incorporate this plot strain into the rest of the film, its intrinsic sensational nature makes it stand out and causes the film to fall slightly off-kilter.

Even so, I liked I Can't Sleep a great deal, mostly thanks to Katerina Golubeva's performance as Daiga, a Lithuanian immigrant who comes to Paris hoping for acting work. Golubeva's uncomplicated beauty, matched with the fact that she's the first character we meet, put her at the center of the proceedings and go a long way in righting the film's balance.

Wellspring brings us this new DVD with few extras other than cast and crew filmographies, optional subtitles and weblinks.

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