J’ai pas sommeil
France / Switzerland, 1993, 110 min
Shown in 1995
COMMENTSClaire Denis in person.
Loosely basing her film on "granny killers" Thierry Paulin and Jean-Thierry Mathurin, who murdered a series of elderly Parisian ladies in late 1980s in Paris, Claire Denis has created a deeply disturbing account of urban alienation. While revolving around the murderous exploits of Camille, a drag-nightclub performer and Raphael, his accomplice/lover, I Can’t Sleep also follows the lives of two other characters: Camille’s brother Theo, an aspiring musician who is in the process of separating from his wife and trying to return to Martinique with his young son; and Daïga, who has just arrived from Lithuania in a battered Russian car. Daïga ends up working as a chambermaid in the same third-rate hotel where Camille and his lover have a room and, unable to fully assimilate into the Parisian mainstream, becomes fascinated with Camille. Coolly refusing to adopt a moral stance, the film radically departs from its sensationalist origins. Even the murder scenes—clinically relayed in real time—go straight against the grain of this genre, becoming almost incidental to the larger story. I Can’t Sleep is a haunting film about being an outsider in contemporary Paris, where cultures, ethnicities and lifestyles clash and disperse.