Summer 2010 Summer Films series
Sunday, June 27, 2010 at 8:00pm
Directed by Sophie Barthes
Screenplay by Sophie Barthes
Starring Paul Giamatti, Dina Korzun, Emily Watson, David Strathairn, Katheryn Winnick, Lauren Ambrose, Boris Kievsky
Rated PG ·
In response to shiny, bigger, better American consumerism comes Cold Souls, a metaphysical comedy in which souls can be extracted and traded as commodities. Balancing on a tightrope between deadpan humor and pathos, and between reality and fantasy, the film presents Paul Giamatti as himself, agonizing over his interpretation of Uncle Vanya. Paralyzed with anxiety, he stumbles upon a solution via a New Yorker article about a high-tech company promising to alleviate suffering by deep-freezing souls. Giamatti enlists their services, intending to reinstate his soul once he survives the performance. But complications ensue when a mysterious, soul-trafficking mule borrows Giamatti’s stored soul for an ambitious, but unfortunately talentless, soap-opera actress. Rendered soulless, he is left with no choice but to follow the trail back to St. Petersburg.
“In Cold Souls, a story about life’s anguished weight, Mr. Giamatti plays a role for which he is exceptionally, perhaps even uniquely qualified: an actor named Paul Giamatti, thereafter known as Paul.
When the movie opens, Paul is rehearsing a scene from Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” with obvious effort and concentration. “I’m a madman,” he proclaims. “I’m 47 years old.” It’s the final act of the play and Uncle Vanya is loudly expressing his vast disappointment. “If…only”, he continues (and here the translation differs from other versions), “If I could only live what’s left in a different way.” In the play the next voice is that of his friend, a doctor, who, with palpable irritation, tells Vanya to shut it. The next speaker in the film, though, is Paul himself, who angrily cuts off the rehearsal. “Uncle Vanya” is, among other things, about disappointed lives and thwarted desires and the continuing performances we call our lives. In many respects the same holds true for Cold Souls an ambitious, elegantly shot, tonally cool first feature written and directed by Sophie Barthes that shows hints of Stanley Kubrick and Charlie Kaufman both.” – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times