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Civilization and its discontents. Paul, an actor preparing for "Uncle Vanya" on Broadway, is mired in ennui. His agent tells him about an office where he can put his soul in storage. He does so then discovers that being soulless helps neither his acting nor his marriage; he returns to the office and rents, for two weeks, the soul of a Russian poet. His acting improves, but his wife finds him different, he sees bits of the borrowed soul's life, and he's now deep in sorrow. He wants his own soul back, but there are complications: it's in St. Petersburg. With the help of Nina, a Russian who transports souls to the U.S., he determines to get it back. Who has he become? Written by
The film was inspired by a dream Sophie Barthes had in which Woody Allen discovers that his soul looks just like a chickpea. Barthes wrote the first draft with Allen in mind for the lead role. See more »
Dmitri tells the actress not to worry that Paul's soul looks like and is the size of a chickpea, telling her that Al Pacino won three Oscars. Al Pacino has actually only won one Oscar (Best Actor in 1992, Scent of a Woman). See more »
Now, your soul will be be stored here, or, if you'd rather avoid sales tax, it can be shipped to our New Jersey warehouse.
Giamatti - Paul:
Un, no. God, no. I don't want my soul shipped to New Jersey. No.
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Despite being easily recognizable, majority of movie-goers can't put a name to Paul Giamatti's face. His resume includes familiar films such as Saving Private Ryan, Cinderella Man, Donnie Brasco, The Truman Show, The Negotiator, Man on the Moon, My Best Friend's Wedding, The Illusionist, Planet of the Apes and this year's Duplicity. Then there are those lesser known films, that are arguably his best, like Shoot 'Em Up, Sideways and American Splendor. Cold Souls doesn't fit on either of those lists; it's too small to fit the former and not quite good enough to fit the latter.
It's hard not to keep the focus on Giamatti as here he actually plays himself, or at least a fabricated version of himself, which further adds to his enigmatic persona. The Paul Giamatti we see on screen is detached, withdrawn and filled with hopelessness. He seems to enjoy his obscurity yet yearns for more. How much does the real Giamatti have in common with this man? With a long line of sad sacks on his CV, is this art imitating life or life imitating art? One of the real treats with Cold Souls is you'll never know.
Writing and directing, Sophie Barthes has crafted a neat little Charlie Kaufman-esquire tale, although it becomes too self-knowing and important in parts. When she dabbles in dark humour it really steps up with the deadpan repartee between Giamatti and the equally ambiguous David Strathairn worth the price of admission alone. However, the subplot involving Russian soul-traffickers is boring and unwelcome. Barthes also deals with the futuristic concept cleverly; in this world it seems completely natural and it is not required to take a massive leap of faith for it to work.
A different and interesting, if not excellent, picture that is an ideal watch on DVD.
3.5 out of 5 (1 - Rubbish, 2 - Ordinary, 3 - Good, 4 - Excellent, 5 - Classic)
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