I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (Malaysia/Taiwan/ China/France/Austria; 115min.)

directed by: Tsai Ming-liang
starring: Norman Atun, Chen Shiang-Chyi, Pearlly Chua, Lee Kang-sheng
Hei Yan Quan

Bruce says: "In my opinion, there is no director making more visually stunning films than Tsai Ming-liang. I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE is a smashing example of a true master at work . Invariably, each scene in his new film is the work of a superb colorist who is blessed with a dazzling sense of composition. But the thing that most sets Tsai Ming-liang’s films apart from others is the lighting. In would not be a stretch to say Tsai Ming-liang is the Vermeer of modern cinema. Each frame is perfectly yet often quite sparingly lit. I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE is his first feature filmed in Malaysia, his native land. But instead of choosing the Kuala Lumpur of Petrona Towers fame, he films his story in a slightly shabby neighborhood with small, unassuming shops, narrow alleyways, an abandon shell of a building half-constructed with a courtyard that is flooded, and a modern highway that adds a feeling of desolation. One might assume that there is little of visual interest in such a place. On the contrary, it is a world of texture. The tiles are chipped and crumpling. The walls are stained, smudged and splattered. Worn spots are everywhere. Dirt caked oscillating fans complement the grainy atmosphere. Tsai Ming-liang makes the mundane simply breathtaking.

"Chyi (Chen Shiang-Chyi) is the victim of a numbers racket street scam. When he cannot produce any money to pay the hucksters, they brutally beat him. A group of itinerant workers from Bangladesh are carrying a mattress which they have found on the street when they see Chyi collapse. They take him back to the abandoned building where they live and Rawang nurses him back to health by feeding him, bathing him, and even helping him urinate. With the found mattress Rawang creates a beautiful bed complete with mosquito netting. With nothing short of perfect lighting it is a bed worthy of Othello and Desdemona. Without question there is an ulterior motive behind Rawang’s largesse. Chyi is appreciative but he is not interested in a physical relationship with Rawang.

"Nearby there is a small noodle shop where a young waitress lives in the attic over the shop owner and her son who is in a coma, lying in a hospital bed with a feeding tube. The young girl spies on the shop owner and son through the floorboards and is particularly fascinated by the mother’s oil massage particularly when it reaches the genital area. As Chyi slowly get better he goes to the noodle shop where he is captivated by the young waitress. She is shy. However, the owner of the shop has no shy bones in her body and she follows Chyi into a murky passageway where she becomes physically aggressive.

"In THE RIVER a mysterious virus attack; in THE WAYWARD CLOUD there is a drought. I DON'T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE is not without an outside force that also shapes destinies. A forest fire in Sumatra sends dense smoke and fog to the city where a gas mask alert is in effect. Makeshift masks are created out of paper cups, plastic bags and even blue jeans. The effect is otherworldly. Sex is difficult, what with all the coughing and gasping. Chyi wants to sleep with the waitress but the only place they can go is back to the abandoned building. Rawang does not embrace the idea and feels mortally wounded. Chyi finally realizes that he cannot have one without the other.

"As with his other films, the dialogue is sparse. TV news and sugary romantic songs invade the silence. The songs are all about the seasons and flowers, blossoms and petals. Their naiveté provides a strange counterpoint to the struggles of Malaysian life. 5 cats"

Beth C says: "For your consideration - best visual design. I thought this film was superb, beautifully designed. In fact, it was not only visually aesthetic, but the filmmaker also used sounds, in a remarkably creative way, in place of dialogue in an effort to convey meaning within many of the scenes. It has a balanced mix of humor with drama, and I found all the characters unique. In addition, I recommended I DON'T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE to my colleagues who are interested in the medical humanities, because it was one of the most artistic compositions I have ever seen that addresses issues like health (recovering from an injury), public health (noxious gas), and long-term invalid care through film. 5 cats"