Tuesday, 6 April 2010


Madman Entertainment
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray

A medical procedure that not only allows you to have your soul extracted but to have someone else's implanted sounds like the stuff of sci-fi. But Sophie Barthes' Cold Souls is a comedy, albeit a rather philosophical one; a meditation on the nature of the soul and just how integral it is to who we are.

With a nod to screenwriter Charlie Kaufmann, most notably the ideas contained in 2004's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where Jim Carrey has the memories of a lost love erased, and 1999's Being John Malkovich. In that film, a portal into the mind of actor John Malkovich was discovered and exploited. Malkovich was a good sport by playing himself, or rather a version of himself, in Spike Jonze's film.

Similarly, in Cold Souls we have Paul Giamatti playing an actor named Paul Giamatti. He's struggling to connect with his character in a stage production of Uncle Vanya and so decides to have his soul placed in storage while he tries out the soul of a more poetic person. At first he feels re-energized but then Giamatti begins to feel he is losing his sense of self. When he returns to have his soul restored, it is found to be missing.

It has, in fact, been shipped to Russia in an illegal soul trafficking trade carried out by mule, Nina (Dina Korzun). Nina, too, is feeling a loss of self, burdened as she is by the traces of the many souls she has been ferrying between the US and Russia for her mobster employees. The pairs' paths will eventually cross.

It's an surreal premise and played for laughs but also for real. Sophie Barthes' film, the idea of which came to her when she dreamed of meeting Woody Allen in the waiting room of a soul extraction surgery, ponders questions of the soul and identity without being heavy-handed in its philosophising. She's helped greatly by Giamatti, a fabulous actor and great sport here, poking fun at his fidgety, disagreeable screen persona.

In my film review (posted Nov 10, 2009), I wrote that Cold Souls was not afraid to massage the mind while tickling the funny bone. Why not give all three, your soul included, a good work-out?

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