I Can't Sleep

on August 11, 1995 by Estep Nagy
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   As directed by Claire Denis, "I Can't Sleep" ("J'ai Pas Sommeil") is a distinguished member of the French tradition of loose narrative, a style defined for many people by Eric Rohmer but used distinctively and to advantage by Denis (best known stateside for "Chocolat").
   To summarize this film is to sketch the outlines of this particular school: A series of characters, generally related more by location than by anything else, briefly intersect one another's lives and as quickly disappear again. In this case, it's a young female emigre, her elderly aunt, a dancer/hustler/murderer of octogenarians, a father and his child, and the doyenne of a low-rent hotel. Character is revealed mostly through the brief interactions of these not-quite strangers; the minute gesture becomes of paramount importance.
   As a result, "I Can't Sleep" is dependent on striking the right mood, and as such it's a bit of a gamble. It's a credit to Denis' direction that the gamble succeeds, and that the interior drama of each individual, while not overtly stated, is made palpable and never sentimentalized.    Starring Katerina Golubeva, Richard Courcet and Alex Descas. Directed by Claire Denis. Written by Claire Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau. Produced by Bruno Pesery. A New Yorker release. Thriller. French-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 110 min.
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