Monday, August 24, 2009
David Straithairn (left) as Dr. Flintstein
and Paul Giamatti as Paul Giamatti in Sophie Barthes' film "Cold Souls",
which opened in various U.S. cities recently and is expanding across the
country. (Photo: Adam Bell/Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Paul Giamatti's Soul, Lost In Translation
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Monday, August 24, 2009
One of the cleverest, most unsentimental films of 2009, "Cold Souls", directed
by Sophie Barthes, is an entertaining film whose subtle tonal shifts are
refreshing to experience, as is the acting of its lead player Paul Giamatti, on
a quest to find his soul after it mysteriously goes missing during a "soul
storage" operation. Mr. Giamatti plays himself, etching the most
excruciating expressions on his face as he is immersed in the ups and downs of a
journey to find an essential part of what makes him tick. His journey
takes him from New York City to Russia, where a trafficking of souls has been
burgeoning on the underground market.
Ms. Barthes also writes "Cold Souls", supplying priceless lines of dialogue for
her protagonist, whose life is in free fall, with a wife (Emily Watson) with
whom he appears to have lost touch. Dr. Flintstein (David Straithairn) is
the architect of Soul Storage in New York City, and after Mr. Giamatti buys what
the good doctor is selling, things go from one extreme to another. "Cold
Souls" becomes a comedy, a thriller, a drama, a science-fiction work and an
adventure in existential crises along the way, never losing its value as a
compelling and intelligent work. Miss Barthes resists sentimentality and
cliché in constructing a well-directed, intelligent feature film.
"Cold Souls" explores just how much value a soul has and whether the people who
possess and then lose those souls are worthy of redemption. The film's
title also appears to be an umbrella term for those who traffic in souls,
whether literally or metaphorically. The director's approach to the issues
presented are nothing less than sincere, and ultimately the film is a
thought-provoking statement filled with funny moments and touches of melancholy.
"Being John Malkovich" may have been inventive as conceived by Charlie Kaufman
and directed by Spike Jonze several years ago, but "Cold Souls" cuts to the
chase when addressing questions of self-identity, celebrity and privacy, keeping
gimmickry on the sidelines. Mr. Giamatti is at his best here, a supremely
talented yet underrated actor who plays himself without hamming up what could
have been a very ham-type performance in another actor's hands.
There's a lot to like about Ms. Barthes' film, which holds our interest and
keeps us intrigued, but Mr. Giamatti's performance and beautiful cinematography
by the film's co-producer Andrij Parekh are among the most noteworthy aspects
"Cold Souls" has on display.
With: Dina Korzun, Katheryn Winnick and Lauren Ambrose.
"Cold Souls" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for
nudity and brief strong language. The film is in the English and Russian
languages with English subtitles. The film's duration is one hour and 41
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