There is selling your soul to the devil and then there is “Cold Souls”. Paul Giamatti takes on the daunting role of himself in the darkly comedic performance where there are less laughs than there are moans and groans. Giamatti takes the part in a play; Uncle Vanya, but with the inability to get out of his own head, he decides to try something drastic. Giamatti chooses to try “soul storage” in which his soul (which is evidently a chickpea) is removed and stored, leaving just a small fraction of his soul intact.
Eventually he test-drives a different soul and is shocked by the outcome, eventually wanting his own soul returned, which turns out to be stolen. Giamatti struggles to recover his missing soul through the soul black market, eventually tracking it back to a rich man’s wife, who dreams of becoming a famous actress. Giamatti learns the hard way that perhaps he is best working with his own soul.
The visuals in “Cold Souls” fit the film perfectly. With a chilling backdrop, the colors wash away any vibrancy that derives from Giamatti’s comical demeanor throughout the film. The entire film is absolutely ridiculous but the characters do not treat it as such, outlining the darkness of the comedy with broad, bold lines. Even the little bits of storyline involving Al Pacino’s soul and the “soul black market” create a world all its own.
“Cold Souls” gives off a brilliance that is not transparent from the first viewing. Catching glimpses of the stills of the film, I am reassured that the film is visually appealing, along with a rare and effective performance by Giamatti, delivering his own, off-kiltered version of “Punch Drunk Love”. It is the presence of Giamatti that makes these Indy films like “Cold Souls” the masterpieces that they are. Without him, the film would be soulless.
[Directed by Sophie Barthes] [PG-13] [101 mins] [7 August 2009]