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March 8, 2010 | by  | in Film |
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Cold Souls


With Cold Souls, writer and director Sophie Barthes owes a lot to screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. This film is will inevitably be compared to Kaufman’s work (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)—in tone, surrealism and with its dealings in similar explorations of midlife crisis and identity. Funny to note that they also share a likening for stars addressing their own personas and with bizarre medical procedures.

Cold Souls follows actor Paul Giamatti, who is brilliantly playing himself. Giamatti is depressed, struggling with his role in the play Uncle Vanya and drowning in his own misery.

The film opens and immediately captures his desperate anguish in a speech full of pain and exhaustion, reminding us what a magnificent actor Giamatti is. Desperate to complete the play and overcome his crisis, Giamatti is referred by his agent to a facility that removes and stores souls. After being convinced it will solve his problem, Giamatti undergoes the procedure and has his soul extracted. While the soul extraction removes the weight of depression, it also removes his capacity for feeling, which makes him a terrible husband and an even worse Uncle Vanya. The scenes of a soulless Giamatti are a riot, with his expressions alone being a constant pisser. But when he tries to get his soul—and his life—back, complications arise, involving a soul trafficker and a trip to Russia.

While the plot gets delightfully bizarre, Giamatti grounds it with a hilariously human performance. Cold Souls is another excellent vehicle for him to flex his dramatic and comedic muscles and he hasn’t had this good of a workout since Sideways. At one point in the film, he sobs, “This is the end of my career!” If he keeps doing films like this, he has a long career ahead.

Barthes does her job excellently, managing to balance pathos and laughs with laudable skill, as the film gracefully juggles dry comedy and unexpected tenderness. Cold Souls is gorgeously shot and winningly written and definitely worth the price of admission. If you like your comedies on the quirky side, make sure to see this at Paramount before it finishes.

Cold Souls
Director: Sophie Barthes

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Comments (6)

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  1. JB says:

    I’m not entirely sold on this film.

    I really enjoyed it, but I think the writing was a little bit too loose. The film had no climax and just sort of tailed off at the end, as if it had run out of will-power. I’m not a slave to classical Hollywood narrative form, but I felt that the story lost some its drama because of this. Also, the rules of soul removal seemed rather vague, as if the actors where improvising the story as it was filmed. It kind of failed to create a sense of verisimilitude around the film’s central premise.

    Still I liked this film. Brilliant performaces, beautifully shot and charmingly quirky. Definitely not for lovers of the mainstream though.

  2. Hugh says:

    “Pisser” doesn’t mean what you think it does, Judah:

  3. smackdown says:

    pisser [ˈpɪsə]
    n Slang
    1. someone or something that pisses
    2. a disappointment or nuisance


  4. smackdown says:

    i like your blog if i have a spare ten years free i might read a review ahahaha owned

  5. Hugh says:

    The scenes of a soulless Giamatti are a riot, with his expressions alone being a constant pisser.

    I think Judah was trying to say that Giamatti’s expression were also “a riot,” but I could be wrong about that.

  6. smackdown says:

    there’s a 99 percent chance u are wrong cos this is smackdown’s yard hi im smackdown

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