Claire Denis' I Can't Sleep is a film examining multiple stores in the confines of the multiethnic neighborhoods of Paris. The first narrative thread is centered around Daiga, an extremely beautiful young woman, who has recently emigrated from Lithuania to Paris. With no money or possessions to her name, Daiga is looking for a place to stay and work in Paris. The other major narrative thread centers around a family of Carribean immigrants living in the same area. Theo, the older brother, is a struggling musician who does carpentry to pay the bills while his brother Camille suffers from serious problems. Claire Denis' I Cant Sleep is a haunting study of longing, estrangement and disconnection that uses a group of fragmented characters to capture the true feeling of loneliness. While these characters live in the same vicinity of each other, and there paths routinely cross, they might as well live miles away with each being stuck in their own world of worry. One could certainly make an argument that Denis' film is commentary on France's immigration policies but that seems to oversimplify Denis' bigger goal, capturing the cultural division and marginalization of these people. For example, Daiga's limited knowledge of French is repeatedly exploited by those around her, while Theo deals with the distrust of his neighbors after interrupting a domestic dispute. Subverting expectations, I Can't Sleep creates a case for how alienation can lead to violence, using the truly unforgettable character Camille to do so. This is a film of narrative ellipses, fragmented sequences, and no concrete answers, with Claire perfectly capturing the difficulty of assimilation in a increasingly alienating society.
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