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I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone
(Hei yan quan)

Directed by Tsai Ming-liang.
With Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Shiang-chyi, Norman Atun.
Malaysia/China/Taiwan/France/Austria , 2006, DCP, color, 115 min.
Min Nan, Malay, Mandarin and Bengali with English subtitles.
DCP source: Strand Releasing

Kuala Lumpur replaces Taipei as Tsai’s metropolis of choice in I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, but the return to his country of birth certainly doesn’t yield any fondness or nostalgia—a sense only strengthened by the Malaysian Censorship Board’s outlawing of the film. Oppressively grimy, littered with half-built corporate structures and neglected shantytowns, and eventually draped in the smoke of a nearby wildfire, the Malaysian capital is portrayed as an eerie labyrinth of alienation, where vagrants and loners of various cultural backgrounds scrape by on low-paying construction and service jobs. Lee Kang-sheng embodies a pair of such figures, both unnamed in the film: one a battered immigrant laborer found on the street by a nurturing young man named Rawang (Norman Atun), the other a paralyzed figure who is taken in by a tender coffee shop waitress (Chen Shiang-chyi). As ever, Tsai makes breathtaking use of space, juxtaposing the cramped and tangled interiors of apartment buildings with the cavernous gorges of multi-story construction sites. A peaceful night’s sleep with a warm body proves to be the elusive objective of the uniformly taciturn ensemble, and, as such, mattresses join Tsai’s rotating set of pet motifs, ultimately featuring prominently in a closing image of exquisite serenity.

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