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I CAN’T SLEEP

France, 1993 (MIFF 2000, Written on the Skin – The Films of Claire Denis)

Director: Claire Denis

Though ostensibly based on a true story-of the 'Granny Killer' Thierry Paufin, who terrorised the outer arrondisements of Paris in the late 1980s, murdering a string of elderly women—Denis here appropriates a generic form (the serial-killer movie) as a means of addressing a number of her persistent themes: alienation, loyalty, the ties of family. Her method is spare and elliptical, observational rather than strictly dramatic; she's concerned, not so much with the murders themselves (though one is depicted, in horrifying real-time), but rather, with the lives and aspirations of a seemingly unconnected trio of neighbourhood dwellers, all outsiders: an aspiring actress from Lithuania; a homesick Antillian carpenter and musician, struggling to retain custody of his young son; and his brother an eerily beautiful transvestite.

The paths of these three troubled souls intersect and collide, almost at random, and little by little we come to recognise a portrait of daily life in this quartier: the complex network of relationships which define this community, and the effect the killer has upon all of them. Richly melancholic, informed by a deep sense of loss (of homeland, of self), this is one of Denis' finest and most resonant works.

See also...

U.S GO HOME

Asked to contribute to the French TV mini-series Tous les Garcons et les Filles de Leur Age (All the Boys and Girls in Their Time)—which assigned ten European directors the task of creating ... More »

NENETTE ET BONI

While virtually all of Denis' films have tacitly addressed the issue of family. this - her fifth narrative feature - confronts the subject explicitly. Boniface (Gregoire Colin) is a 19-year-old pizza ... More »

CHOCOLAT

Returning to Cameroon, the West African nation where she spent her childhood, a young Frenchwoman (Mireille Perrier) contemplates her youth, spent within the enclave of a colonial outpost, and the ... More »

BEAU TRAVAIL

Arguably Denis' greatest film to date, Beau Travail is by any standard a magisterial piece of work: meditative, richly sensual—an ode to the beauty of male bodies and to the inscrutability of ... More »

NO FEAR, NO DIE

One of Denis' most controversial films, this study of Parisian cock-fight handlers alienated some viewers with its unflinching (and clearly well-researched) depiction of a vicious sport ... More »

MAN NO RUN

For her second feature film, Denis departed from the meditative tone of her debut, and plunged instead into the noise and energy of a band on the road. Acclaimed Cameroonian act Les Têtes Brulées ... More »

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