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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an almost brilliant idea, almost amazing performance, and an almost terrific film
Cold Souls (2009)
This is a concept movie, in a way, though the concept--that you can have your soul extracted and stored in a jar so that you can live without its weight--is actually a bit thin after awhile. What drives it is not something actually heavy or surreal, about having and trading real souls, but more the idea that your soul also affects, very slightly, your personality, or your talent. So really what happens is people begin to trade or borrow souls, and they acquire a little bit of the owner's qualities. And that carries along a few consequences. naturally.
Everything is presented in a deadpan comic way. The souls stored in their foot long glass jars vary greatly, some looking like creative sculptures and others like, well, a jelly bean. Or in the case of our hero, Paul Giamatti, a garbanzo bean. (The Russian half of the cast says in joyful astonishment, "a chick pea!")
Giamatti is not my favorite actor but all my friends think he's terrific and I like the type he plays, a schlumpy everyman with Homer Simpson eyes. And Giamatti, who plays a character named Paul Giamatti, makes this movie. It isn't a tour de force, an Al Pacino or Cate Blanchett jaw-dropper, though I think it's meant to be (he even has roles within roles, with his character rehearsing a stage play). To some extent his willingness to succumb to the movie's simple, clever plot is one of its charms.
There are echoes of the absurd and the playful of two earlier (and better) movies, the incredibly inventive "Being John Malkovich" and the cinematically engrossing "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Both of those are written by the astonishing Charlie Kaufman. Here the writer Sophie Barthes is working almost solo since she is also directing, and if it's solid it's also short of its potential, which unfortunately is so obvious. It's a great idea. And a rather good movie.
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