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I Can't Sleep (1994)

J'ai pas sommeil (original title)
Unrated | | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | 18 May 1994 (France)
Beautiful Daiga has emigrated from Lithuania to Paris and is looking for a place to stay and work. Theo is a struggling musician, and his brother Camille - a transvestite dancer. One of ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (screenplay)
2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Daiga (as Katerina Golubeva)
Richard Courcet ...
Vincent Dupont ...
Laurent Grévill ...
le docteur
Alex Descas ...
Irina Grjebina ...
Tolsty ...
Line Renaud ...
Ira Mandella-Paul ...
Little Harry
Sophie Simon ...
Alice, Mona's Sister
Danielle van Bercheycke ...
Patrick Grandperret ...
Fabienne Mai ...
3rd Victim
Alice Hurtaux ...
2nd Victim


Beautiful Daiga has emigrated from Lithuania to Paris and is looking for a place to stay and work. Theo is a struggling musician, and his brother Camille - a transvestite dancer. One of these three people might be connected to the serial "Granny Killer" who has been terrorizing Paris for a while. Written by Dragomir R. Radev <radev@cs.columbia.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Unrated | See all certifications »



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Release Date:

18 May 1994 (France)  »

Also Known As:

I'm Not Sleepy  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$111,015 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The character of Camille, the old women's killer, was inspired by Thierry Paulin. See more »


References Le costaud des Épinettes (1923) See more »


A Whiter Shade of Pale
Music and Lyrics by Keith Reid and Gary Brooker
Performed by Procol Harum
See more »

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User Reviews

A small miracle of filmmaking
4 August 1999 | by (San Francisco) – See all my reviews

"I Can't Sleep" opens with a shot of policemen laughing in a helicopter above Paris, a scene Denis says has no narrative function. The helicopter doesn't blow up or crash (as we half-expect, so Hollywood-trained we have become). We never learn why they are laughing, and it never comes up. but it immediately sets a tone of ordinariness about something that is so freighted with allusion - that police work is all dark violence and angst and frayed tension. Police work also includes ordinary moments between two people.

"I Can't Sleep" follows three sets of characters who come to be loosely linked. First is Daïga (Katerina Golubeva, an unknown with an exotic resemblance to Michelle Pfeiffer) who drives away from Lithuania and into the Paris ring in her boxy, smoking car. She has only vague ideas about what she wants other than to let Paris wash over her life. for the time being, she finds a tenuous niche in the émigré community working indifferently as a maid in a second rate hotel. Among the hotel's residents is Camille (another unknown, Richard Courcet as a drag hoodlum with a brooding boredom) who, with his friends and lovers, leads us through the gay subculture. And there is Theo, Camille's good brother who struggles the struggle of the unFrench emigrant class in neoconservative France. As we stay with these characters, we see a Paris that isn't a backdrop to romantic comedies like "Forget Paris" or "French Kiss." In the course of "I Can't Sleep" we get a sense of the shape of some of the other kinds of lives that are lived in Paris. We begin to move to the film's rhythm. At intervals are arresting set pieces that attenuate reaction. These subtle departures don't break the film's basic form, but they do break the mood of the expected. We get to laugh and be aware that we are laughing. We marvel at small things and know we are marvelling at them.

In "I Can't Sleep," newspaper headlines scream about a sociopath who is going around murdering and robbing solitary old women (based on a true case). Denis illustrates for us what we know to be true - that mostly people are unaffected. Everyone's lives continue to be lived routinely, each with their own personal life traumas that fill their days. By chance, the murders intersect our characters' lives and we see their reactions to it. There aren't any obvious cues for us. We watch Daïga as she learns who the murderer is. What she does and what happens as a result is less important than the almost wordless scene they share when she follows him. Something essential passes between them, but what that is is up to you. It's as much based on the experience you can bring to it and what abstractions you can add to the moment. Likewise, Theo's face is a dispassionate mask - it begs us on to project our reactions to his life circumstances.

This is a tenuous connection, a lot for Denis to ask of her audience, and it may not engage many or even most of those sitting out there. In a way, you have to have a ready state of mind to watch it. It reminds me most of Kryzysztof Kieslowski's "Red" and the conversations I had about it. More than a few friends said they couldn't suspend their qualms about the believability of the relationship between Jean-Louis Trintignant's character and Irene Jacob's. It was too far from convention (age difference) and lacked a believable basis (he was just a weird old guy, and what did they share anyway?). But for me, I loved it because his character seemed the tragic sum of all the characters I have seen Trintignant play (especially in "A Man and A Woman," "Z," "The Conformist" among others). Here was the same good man, now ruined at an advanced age, and I was meeting him again. I felt I understood him fundamentally, knew what he had gone through to reach this sour moment in his life and because of this, it was easy for me to project my understanding onto Jacob's character. I thought, "Of course she loves him."

Anyway, "I Can't Sleep" is, at its best moments, a collage of sometime odd elements that is somehow perfectly composed (like in "Paris, Texas" and "Wings of Desire," and in Kieslowski, especially, "Red" and some of the Dekalog episodes like "Thou shalt not bear false witness"). One can't explain why it seems right, but everyting certainly does feel just right - the film is conjured from single notes that together comprise a whole score. There is what seems like extraneous stuff in there. You wonder how it fits, what it really means. Yet, it nevertheless feels right once the whole has been digested.

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