Cold Souls (USA/France; 101 min.)

directed by:Sophie Barthes
cast: Paul Giamatti; Dina Korzun; David Straithairn; Emily Watson; Katheryn Winnick; Lauren Ambrose
Cold Souls

Michael says: "Okay, I saw a good movie last night.  And it was one I knew very little about going in, which is always fun.  COLD SOULS stars Paul Giamatti as… well, Paul Giamatti!  Paul is rehearsing 'Uncle Vanya' and he’s losing himself in the part.  His soul is weighing him down and he can’t separate himself from the role.  So on some advice from his agent, he looks into Soul Storage, finding a heretofore unknown (to him) industry of soul extraction and storage!  Run by a Dr. Flintstein (a deadpan, new agey David Straithairn with able, mod assistance from Lauren Ambrose) Paul becomes convinced to give it a try, has his soul extracted, and from there finds himself deeply involved in an international black market involving soul trafficking and Russian soul mules.  Sounds whacky?  It is.  It’s also funny, clever, moving, visually beautiful, and filled with really terrific performances; the kind that make me excited about movies.

"Paul Giamatti is superb as a man who longs to free himself from the heaviness weighing him down.  He veers from terror at finding out that he is empty inside, to disbelief as he is drawn deeper and deeper into the international soul market.  He’s a very visual actor, conveying his emotions through his expressive face.  Russian actress Dina Kozun was working in Russian films before getting some international notice in a little British film called LAST RESORT.  I was caught up in her powerfully emotional performance in that film and have kept an eye on her ever since.  She showed up in Ira Sachs’ unusual FORTY SHADES OF BLUE starring with Rip Torn, and then nothing again until this terrific role in COLD SOULS.  Dina is visually striking, and alternatively mysterious, dangerous, light-hearted, caring and helpless throughout the film.  As mentioned before, David Straithairn is terrific as Dr. Flintstein, quack, mad scienteist, or new age guru?  Lauren Ambrose as Flintstein’s assistant, and Emily Watson as Paul’s wife aren’t given much to do, but they always add to whatever they appear in.  

"Beth called COLD SOULS a Russian film starring Paul Giamatti, and I understand where she’s coming from.  It’s moody and atmospheric, it moves along slowly at first, and the humor is subtle for a time before things start to escalate.  But there’s a powerful heart underneath the cool, snowy landscapes that beats with passion.  COLD SOULS might not be for everyone, but I’m glad to give it 4 ½ cats"

Betsy says: "I really liked COLD SOULS. It was a sweet intro to CHLOTRUDIS ( & I thank you all for making me feel so welcome.) To add to Michael's post - I was worried the wacky premise would be a tiresome  turn-off - I had read too many reviews beforehand that talked about the director's nutty dream, a chickpea and Woody Allen etc - but I found I quickly bought into the whole thing, maybe because it was tempered with an intelligent, playful  humor, a cool look, not to mention Paul G's incredible expressiveness and believability.  There are lots of interesting subplots as well - a  shopaholic Russian starlet and a sad Russian poet offer great counterpoint. Meanwhile you may recognize Michael Tucker (of TV, movies and Jill Eickenberry fame)  'tucked' in as the theatre director. I loved  the mysterious and beautiful Dina Kozun too, and I will be looking for LAST RESORT.
Diane says: "This oddity is a pleasure. (But I wish my audience had laughed a little more.) Fave scene was between Giamatta and Watson, when the actor confesses to his dumbfounded wife what he's done. Ultimately, it's short on message (director unclear what she wanted to say?), but the premise and ramifications are intriguing and moving. In fact, Giamatti's emotional responses are much more interesting than the
plot. Reminiscences of "Uncle Vanya" and MARIA FULL OF GRACE. 4 cats
Thom says: "For me this amalgam of ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, ADAPTATION, etc. doesn’t really come together very well. First off, I wasn’t a fan of the above mentioned films, & this certainly doesn’t upgrade the genre. Well-acted & filmed the film ends up being silly. Here the illustrious Paul Giamatti plays a character named Paul Giamatti (oh how cute) who is suffering through rehearsals for UNCLE VANYA (for a much better film using the Chekov great as a backdrop try VANYA ON 42nd STREET) so he goes to a company that extracts or exchanges souls for a fee. Giamatti, Watson, & a few of the other actors are very good with the deadpan approach but Strahairn is so smarmy that he ruins the suspension of disbelief. I’ve had a run of mediocre screeners so I’m hoping many of the rest to see will be terrific. 3 cats"