I CAN’T SLEEP (1993) [Feature]

France (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.

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