While never-ending rain and a strange disease spread by cockroaches ravage Taiwan, a plumber makes a hole between two apartments and the inhabitants of each form a unique connection, enacted in musical numbers.
Tsai Ming-liang returns with this latest entry in his Walker series, in which his monk acquires an unexpected acolyte in the form of Denis Lavant as he makes his way through the streets of a sun-dappled Marseille.
Forest fires burn in Sumatra; a smoke covers Kuala Lumpur. Grifters beat an immigrant day laborer and leave him on the streets. Rawang, a young man, finds him, carries him home, cares for him, and sleeps next to him. In a loft above lives a waitress. She sometimes provides care and attention. More violence seems a constant possibility. They find another man abandoned on the street, paralyzed. They carry him. While no one speaks to each other, sounds dominate: coughing, cooking, coupling, opening bags; music and news reports on a radio, the rattle and buzz of a restaurant. It's dark in the city at night. We see down hallways, through doors, down alleys. Who sleeps with whom?Written by
Tsai Ming Liang's "I Don't Want to Sleep Alone" is yet another of those Spartan-like, minimalist Asian films (this one happens to be Chinese) that is composed almost entirely of single-take medium and long shots (this movie would have made Andre Bazin and his fellow theorists at Cahiers du Cinema jump for joy, or, at the very least, purr with contentment). The problem with such a style, beyond testing the patience of the audience, is that it distances us so much from what is happening on screen that we soon become dispassionate observers rather than the engaged participants we need to be if we are to become fully enveloped in the story. In fact, most of the time we can't figure out who anybody is or why we should be interested in anything that is going on in their lives. If this movie proves anything, it is just how essential close-ups and inter-scene cutting can be in helping us to identify with and care about a character and the situation he's going through.
As far as I can tell, the theme is about a handful of urban youth who feel isolated and alienated from one another and the world around them, but who are taking some faltering steps towards reaching out and bridging that gap, mainly through touching. But the almost total lack of dialogue and the chillingly clinical style of film-making make it frankly impossible for us to tell WHAT the movie makers' intentions might be.
There are a few erotically-charged moments in the film, but overall "I Don't Want to Sleep Alone" is an excursion into tedium that gives "art films" a bad name.
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