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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

DVD Review: Cold Souls

Cold Souls - An E1 Films’ Release


Release Date: August 7th, 2009

DVD Release Date: February 2nd, 2010

Rated PG for mature themes, coarse language

Running time: 101 minutes

Sophie Barthes (dir.)

Sophie Barhtes (writer)

Dickon Hinchliffe (music)

Paul Giamatti as Paul Giamatti

Dina Korzun as Nina

Emily Watson as Claire

David Strathairn as Dr. Flintstein

Katheryn Winnick as Sveta

Lauren Ambrose as Stephanie

Our reviews below:


Cold Souls DVD Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

A soul is like a human hard drive. Without out it we would barely be capable, and on it are our memories. And according to Sophie Barthes’ film, Cold Souls, sometimes it looks like a chickpea.

In Cold Souls, Paul Giamatti plays Paul Giamatti, a struggling actor who has his soul extracted, but illegally sold to Russia. This is a thought-provoking dark-comedy that asks questions about our souls, ponders them, and in a weird way, perhaps, gives us the answers. While at the same time keeping the laughs coming. The bizarre, dreamlike premise and brilliant performance by Paul Giamatti, make Cold Souls worth seeking out.

My only complaint about the film is that there are no subtitles during the Russian language scenes. If you want to know what’s going on, you’ll have to activate the subtitles on the DVD.

The DVD includes approximately 9-minutes of deleted scenes, and a nice little featurette on the construction of the “Soul Extractor”, an amazingly well made prop.


Cold Souls DVD Review By Erin V.

***1/2 (out of four)

Cold Souls is a comedy about an actor named Paul Giamatti (played by Paul Giamatti), who is feeling burdened by everything in his life, including his upcoming performance in a play. So, when his agent suggests ‘Soul Storage’, he decides to try it - but just for two weeks. Unfortunately, his soul is stolen and trafficked to Russia on the black market. Realizing that being soulless is not all that great, he has to figure out where his soul has gone - and how to get it back...

This movie really works for the acting - particularly from Paul Giamatti - but from the great supporting cast as well. Admittedly when I’d first heard of the premise, I thought that it just sounded really strange, which it is, but it’s also really funny. The story plays out quite well, allowing you to believe that this strange ‘soul extractor’ machine could somehow just ‘be’ in this parallel world, and that this ‘soul trafficking’ could really be a problem.

The DVD also includes some cool extras, including a featurette about the making of the ‘soul extractor’ prop. Unfortunately - and this may be an error in the disc encoding - the Russian language scenes are not captioned. You can watch the whole film with the hearing impaired captions on, which allows you to see the English translation, but except for in the deleted scenes, there are no automatically inserted captions.


Cold Souls DVD Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Cold Souls is a strange and quirky comedy that raises important questions about life, death, and why people have souls. In the film, Paul Giamatti plays a stage actor with the same name. Paul finds it difficult to act, as his soul has gotten tired. So before a performance of Uncle Vanya, Paul decides to give his soul a break at a “soul bank”. A storage facility for souls. It turns out, that not only does the soul bank store souls, it trades the through a Russian soul bank. The souls are traded by “Mules”, people who carry the souls in their bodies across the border. This is not without risks, and complications arise that require Paul to get his own soul back.

Cold Souls is an interesting movie. The acting is good, and the story really makes you think long after the movie is over. Cold Souls is a funny little indie film that is worth checking out.


Cold Souls DVD Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

There’s something inherently dark about the concept of selling one’s soul. Yet Cold Souls is one funny, even if dark, movie. Credit has to go to Paul Giamatti who plays an emotionally drained actor named Paul Giamatti. When Giamatti feels he no longer has the soul to properly play uncle Vanya in a Chekov play he turns to an organization that will remove your soul for you and all the burdens that come with having a soul. Little does he know that there are Russians who have a black market soul exchange business going on.

The whole premise of Cold Souls leads to some interesting questions about the existence and nature of souls. The movie Cold Souls handles the whole question with a wonderful dark humour that never plays over the top with dialogue or slapstick. This is an intelligent and funny movie. Cold Souls left me with lots to think about and a whole new take on chickpeas.

Cold Souls is intelligent fun for a cold winter’s night.


Cold Souls DVD Review By Tony

*** (out of 4)

Paul Giamatti (using his own name) is overwrought preparing the stage role of Uncle Vanya. The Soul Storage Company offers a solution–to remove his soul (placed in cold storage) and thus unburden him of pent-up anxieties. Now soulless, he finds he still can’t perform, and the borrowed soul of an alleged Russian poet just makes things worse. However, when he tries to get his own soul back, he discovers it has been stolen by the Russian boss whose soap opera actress wife wanted to try out an American actor’s soul for inspiration. The Russian soul “mule” takes him to Russia to get it back.

The French-born writer/director Sophie Barthes claims that the idea for this bizarre and brilliant dark comedy came to her in a dream just after reading Jung and watching Sleeper. Paul Giamatti is a joy to watch portraying what just might be himself on really bad days, particularly playing against the other distinguished stage actor David Strathairn as the Soul Storage Company’s sinister Dr. Flintstein. The rest of the cast is also excellent, especially the Russian actress Dina Korzun as the mule. The film dragged at times and was a bit hard to follow on first viewing, particularly during dream sequences with weird disjointed memories left behind by the borrowed souls. Brief scenes of Russian dialogue came inextricably without subtitles, which was frustrating for those of us who have no Russian. I had to go back over these scenes on the DVD with captions on to see what I had missed. The visuals, from the dreary Russian scenes to the brightly lit clinical soul storage facility with its delightful extraction machine, are beautifully shot by the director’s partner Andrij Parekh, and the soundtrack is appropriately atmospheric, with original music by Dickon Hinchcliffe and sultry songs by artists such as Lhasa (regretfully now gone).

The DVD comes with the usual extras, including a hilarious extended stage workshop scene with Paul Giamatti. The film’s website links to the very funny fake site of the Soul Storage Company. Despite my disorientation on first viewing, just how good Cold Souls was became apparent when I watched the trailer again and couldn’t stop laughing. This one’s a keeper.


Consensus: With a bizarre, darkly humorous premise, and brilliant lead performance by Paul Giamatti as Paul Giamatti, Cold Souls is a dark and thought-provoking delight. *** (Out of 4)

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