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"The Man Who Sleeps" requires some patience, but a powerful closing act makes the wait worthwhile.
The film's title is misleading, because the story is more about willful inertia than slumber. A weary college-age man (Jacques Spiesser) decides to withdraw from the world. This doesn't mean he entirely retreats to his apartment, but his outdoor trips become vacant wanderings where he just looks for solitary, picturesque spots to sit and think. He never says a word -- instead, an unseen female narrator (Ludmila Mikael) continuously describes his alienated feelings and reactions. Some other people are seen (and not heard), but a similarly isolated old man is the only one who adds anything useful to the narrative. Not surprisingly, this minimalist structure is a bit tedious, but the text is eloquent and the roaming camera has an interesting take on mundane Paris sights. Eventually the man grows more frantic as his calculated detachment fails to yield any benefits, and here's where the previously deadpan Mikael cranks up the theatrics and earns her paycheck. For extra impact, the film image turns harshly saturated and high-contrast to accent the man's increased desperation. Clearly, this sort of existential mood piece is not for everyone, but "The Man Who Sleeps" is an intriguing curio.
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