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    Cold Souls

    Soul asylum

    Paul Giamatti shines (again) after putting his soul in cold storage c/o David Strathairn.


    What a joy it is to see Paul Giamatti in almost any role, and in "Cold Souls" we get two for one: he plays himself, an angst-ridden actor, and Uncle Vanya, an angst-ridden character. OK, we don't get to see much of him as Vanya, but enough to want to see more of his particular Chekhovian journey of despair.

    Written and directed by: Sophie Barthes.
    Produced by: Daniel Carey, Elizabeth Giamatti.
    Cast: Paul Giamatti, Dina Korzun, Emily Watson, David Strathairn.
    Cinematography: Andrij Parekh.
    Edited by: Andrew Mondshein.
    Music by: Dickon Hinchliffe.
    Production design by: Beth Mickle.
    Art direction by: Michael Ahern.
    Costumes by: Erin Benach.
    Fortunately, the character of Paul Giamatti the actor has his own delicious journey. In an attempt to rid himself of those uneasy feelings you get when working on a tough role, he does what any one of us might do: he has his soul extracted and put in storage on Roosevelt Island.

    As with most operations involving the removal and storage of internal organs and, by extension, souls, there is the inevitable Russian underground with its slightly lower clinical standards. Nina, the beautiful soul mule from St. Petersburg played by Russian actress Dina Korzun, shuttles back and forth to New York and in the process, well, of course things get complicated. The end result could be much worse than Paul Giamatti getting panned by critics for a soulless performance of Uncle Vanya.

    Cold Souls  
    The acting is first-rate, with David Strathairn as Dr. Flintstein of the soul storage clinic, Emily Watson as Paul Giamatti's wife, and most notably Korzun as the international soul dispenser, whose quiet intensity and understated comedy is riveting. Sophie Barthes wrote and directed the film, which is complemented by the soft, nostalgic cinematography of Andrij Parekh.

      The absurdity and cleverness and acting genius make this movie more than worthy of your time.
    The premise of this movie is as bizarre as that of "Being John Malkovich" with a touch of mockumentary about illegal trafficking. And it works. Its tongue-in-cheek, deadpan humor made me laugh out loud. It helps to be a theater-lover and a New Yorker, I think, but it is hard for me to know how a wider audience may perceive the backdrop of this story. There is no rip-roaring pace or great sex scene. Even the pay-off is slightly disappointing when Paul is forced to "look inside."

    Cold Souls  
    But the absurdity and cleverness and acting genius make this movie more than worthy of your time and twelve dollars. I will probably pay to see it again.

    And I never do that.

    SEPTEMBER 12, 2009

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