Actor Paul Giamatta (Paul Giamatta) is emotionally drained after intense rehearsals of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya when he stumbles on an article in the New Yorker called 'Soul Storage', about a private laboratory offering relief for overburdened souls. On the spur of the moment, Paul decides to have his soul extracted and stored but is taken aback when he discovers it is the size and shape of a chickpea. He discovers having no soul to be rather empty and boring and rents the soul of an alleged Russian poet. When he decides he must get his own soul back, he meets Nina (Dina Korzun), a Russian soul-mule who transports souls from Russia to America.
Review by Louise Keller:
I love the bizarreness of the premise about a man who feels so heavy by the weight of his soul he puts it into cold storage, and although Cold Souls doesn't quite gel in the final analysis, there is much about Sophie Barthes' dream-inspired film that is wonderful. Intriguingly, there are parallels with Charlie Kaufman's Being John Malkovich as it is not only Paul Giamatti's overly burdened actor who has his head messed with; we do too.
What is it that makes us who we are? Where does the soul fit in? How would our individual stories play out if we could swap souls as easily as books at the local library? Would you still love me if I were someone else? It's a cocktail of the philosophical, the reflective, the introspective and the surreal, wickedly and liberally laced with deadpan humour. And Giamatti makes an extra tasty meal of it, luring us onto that springboard from which we make a gigantic, entertaining leap of faith.
Watching David Stathairn's Dr Flintstein ('A twisted soul is like a tumour; get rid of it') is a joy as he explains soul-swapping philosophy in the same disarmingly matter of fact way as he might discuss swapping football cards. He assures vulnerable Giamatti that 'size isn't everything' as his distraught client views his chick-pea of a soul, clinically displayed in a tall, cylindrical glass jar. Emily Watson is suitably bewildered as the wife and Dina Korzun is excellent as the trafficking Russian soul-mule Nina, who inadvertently retains fragments of the souls she smuggles through customs. Satire is at its peak when Katheryn Winnick's Russian soap actress Sveta is determined to get Al Pacino's soul to improve her acting talents but gets Giamatti's instead.
The story eventually runs out of puff and fizzles, but it's a hell of a journey (excuse the pun) and Andrij Parekh's cinematography beautifully enhances the mood. The David Lynch-like sequence that incorporates an incongruous set of ingredients sits comfortably in the context but in the end the stimulation and intrigue fails to pay dividends.
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COLD SOULS (M)
CAST: Paul Giamatti, Dina Kurzon, Emily Watson, David Strathairn, Katheryn Winnick, Lauren Ambrose, Boris Kievsky, Oksana Lada, Natalia Zvereva
PRODUCER: Daniel Carey,Elizabeth Giamatti, Paul S. Mezey, Andrij Parekh,, Jeremy Kipp Walker
DIRECTOR: Sophie Barthes
SCRIPT: Sophie Barthes
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrij Parekh
EDITOR: Andrew Mondshein
MUSIC: Dickson Hinchcliffe
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Beth Mickle
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 12, 2009
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays in February, following a FREE introductory screening on February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.