I Can't Sleep (2000)
Director: Dario Argento
Max Von Sydow/Ulisse
Retired police legend Ulisse (Von Sydow) steps out of retirement when a serial killer he believed to be dead 17 years ago seems to be back on the job in the present. Is there a copycat in the house or has the “Killer Dwarf” really returned to slaughter some more?
Argento goes back to his “Giallo” roots. Who’s not happy? Fans of the master will recognize hints of his earlier films in this new one, "Deep Red” and "Tenebre" often came to mind.
In this “Giallo” for the new millennium, Argento stays close to his early trademarks: a motive that’s rooted in childhood, a creepy children’s poem that the killer likes to hum, love of music (concert hall), a whodunit, a slick score by Goblins, lots of dead chicks and love of animals. I was actually surprised that Ulisse’s parrot didn’t eventually become active in the investigation since Argento always liked to turn his animal stars into heroes ("Phenomena", "Opera"…) I guess some things have to change. The murder sequences are all brilliantly executed with the opening train sequence being the highlight and the sharp style is still so on.
In the bonus section we get a wonderful performance by Max Von Sydow, he holds the movie together and I adored him. I also loved the emphasis on the contrast between the older methods of doing things (the older cop’s way of investigating which is more personal) vs the present ones (the new cops use computers, phone taps…what not). The comparison can almost be perceived as a metaphor to what Argento must be living (him being of the old school of directing and all). That element gave the film and the Sydow character a tasty extra layer. So what’s wrong with this picture, you may ask?
The one thing that I was able to let go in Argento’s heyday but that I had trouble digesting here was...the flawed script. For starters, the script telegraphs its murder sequences, meaning that you know exactly when somebody is going to die. Fortunately, the stalk sequences are either very satisfying or short but on occasion seeing a murder coming lessened the tension for me. And what was up with that old lady getting it and nobody giving a fuck? Bad story structure there; there were better ways to go about it. The script also had some characters do really dumb things, which played against them and the film.
Some of the dialogue is also pretty bad (and the bad acting didn’t help) and the demise of the killer in the end was a total let-down (no fucking way that would have went down). In staying too close to his old stuff, Argento repeats the same mistakes that he committed in the past. Unfortunately for me those mistakes just didn’t go down as well, taking into account that in the year 2000…movies have changed. It was still way kool to see a new “Giallo” flick. I felt an incredible sense of nostalgia while sitting through it. I never thought I’d see a film in this vein today and it felt great! But after all of these years, you would think that Argento would have evolved in terms of his films’ weaknesses. He didn’t. Can you sleep?
Was Argento pissed off or what? The murders are all very brutal here. We get cut off fingers, a nasty murder by flute (no joke), a bloody pen stabbing to the head, a violent head pounding against a wall with teeth getting knocked out, a slick beheading and a bullet to the head. All is served with an extra serving of blood.
Max Von Sydow (Ulisse) gives a captivating turn as the forgetful old man. His performance touched me and made me smile. He holds the movie together. I can’t say the same about Stephano Dionisi (Giacomo) who’s as wooden as can be. To be fair to the man, the English dubbing on his character was awful. Chiara Caselli (Gloria) does ok but she didn’t really do it for me. Can someone explain to me how throughout the entire movie she’s as sweet as candy but near the conclusion she suddenly becomes a mega beeyatch and treats Giacomo like crap? Another sign of a weak script or a bad actress? Roberto Zibetti (Lorenzo) gives off a very kookie aura that made his character interesting. Paolo Maria Scalondro (Manny) got on my damn nerves but again, his dubbing is atrocious. NOTE: Is it me or did Giacomo and Lorenzo come off as a bit more than friends?
T & A
Early on we get full frontal nudity of this used up looking hooker chick (nice cans though).
Argento is back to his old tricks. The opening murder sequence on the train has got to be one of the most memorable murder sequences I have seen in a while. Man, the suspense was so "on" in that scene! Argento also slaps in some image superimpositions, extreme close ups, a groovy tracking shot on a carpet that leads to a murder, a really neat scene of a children’s book that unfolds before our eyes in forced perspective and bathes all of it in slick atmosphere (the first half hour is all about rain soaked streets…David Fincher would be proud). Argento's still got the touch. NOTE: Did we really need that goofy music during the midget scene? Not really. The midgets themselves were sufficient. Argento tried too hard there.
Thank you Goblins for bringing us a score that kicks major ass. It's old-school, aggressive and it gives the tense and violent images that extra slash to the throat.
Distributor: Artisan Entertainment
Compared to what we get from Anchor Bay in terms of Argento films, this is pretty weak.
IMAGE: I was disappointed that we can only view the film in its cropped "Full Screen" version. Where's my "widescreen"? This is Argento, ya'll! The image itself is average and sports the occasional grain.
SOUND: The 5.1 Digital Surround and the 2.1 Dolby Stereo serve the film well. The dialogue is clear and the score isn't overbearing.
EXTRAS: Very bare boned, we get: Director and Cast Filmographies, "Sleepless" Trailer, and Sneak Peeks (The Item, Twin Peaks Season 1, Center Of The World and Children Of The Living Dead).
Apart from the groovy animated menu, this DVD is pretty basic. Too basic for an Argento title if you ask me.
Well, it’s a step up from “Phantom Of The Opera”, that’s fer sure! Argento is definitely a visual genius and "I Can't Sleep" proves that he still has the Midas touch in that respect. It’s too bad that the script doesn’t always keep up with the directing. I still enjoyed the movie as a whole, it was highly engaging and the opening murder sequence is worth the price of rental alone. But for Argento’s next film, I hope that he gets a new screenwriter/collaborator on board to assist him (Franco Ferrini and Carlo Lucarelli helped him out here) because I think it's high time for Dario to tighten his act and reach his full potential. Yes, I should be his next co-writer, or star: "Hey Dario...can I take Asia out for a burger?"
Dario’s luscious daughter Asia Argento wrote the poem “The Animal” farm that’s very prominent in the film.
Franco Ferrini also collaborated with Argento on "Stendthal Syndrome", "Trauma" and "Phenomena".