Friday, August 28, 2009

COLD SOULS (2009)


Written & Directed by Sophie Barthes



Where & When: The Landmark, West Los Angeles, CA. August 28,2009 6:40PM


"Cold Souls" is the story of an actor named Paul Giamatti who is played by Paul Giamatti. The actor is suffering during the rehearsals for another revival of the play, "Uncle Vanya". He is agitated and can't sleep. He can't seem to separate himself from the character he is playing.

Giamatti reads in the New Yorker magazine about a company that removes a person's soul, deep freezes it and stores it for later use. Dr. Flintstein (David Strathairn) who runs the company explains that this process helps relieves anxiety and stress. Paul is skeptical but ultimately decides to go through the process. He is horrified to discover that his soul is the size of a chickpea but the doctor assures him that's normal because, like people, souls come in all shapes and sizes.

At first, Paul feels good and ready to get back on stage but since he no longer has an emotional core, his performance is empty and hollow. Paul's wife (Emily Watson) notices something odd about her husband. She says that he smells strange and physically feels different.

Realizing his error, he goes back to Dr. Flintstein to get back his soul but they discover that his soul is gone. The doctor explains that it appears to have been possibly taken by a Russian "mule" who smuggles American souls to Russia which is called "soul-trafficking". Paul doesn't care about all of this; he just wants his soul back.

The doctor leads Paul to the Russian, Nina (Dina Korzun) who has second thoughts of her activities and decides to help Paul. They travel to St. Petersburg to try and retrieve his soul. Nina leads him to a model who aspires to be an actress. Paul's soul is trapped in her body. She was lead to believe by her wealthy boyfriend that she was given the soul of Al Pacino and is not going to be cooperative in giving it back.

This film owes a huge debt to the great mind of Charlie Kaufman and his film, "Being John Malkovich". But while in "Malkovich" you never quite believe anything you are seeing as being anything more than an elaborate fantasy, "Cold Souls" keeps itself firmly planted in reality the entire time despite the outlandish plot. This works in this film's favor and creates a different and fresher atmosphere. The film is so matter of fact that you soon forget that you are not really able to extract a human soul. . . at least, not yet. The comparison to Mr. Kaufman's film may be unavoidable yet "Cold Souls" does manage to be entertaining on it's own merits.

This is Ms Barthes' first feature length film and she does a fine job. The film is an interesting mix of dry humor and existential sci-fi. She is another new film maker I am looking forward in seeing what she will do next. Paul Giamatti gives another great performance of playing a variation of himself or simply a man who just happens to share his name and occupation. Either way, he is very convincing as Paul Giamatti. "Cold Souls" is a thoughtful, quirky and funny little film that you should definitely check out.