Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Cold Souls": a cute satire; could souls become the new black market currency?

Paul Giamatti joins John Malkovich as a “mature” actor who can have “fiction” movies made about himself. The context is so innocuous, the satire so obvious that there really can’t be an “implicit content” problem here.

The movie is “Cold Souls”, (website) written and directed by Sophie Barthes, distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films. Giamatti, as himself, is spooked that he has to live through the characters he plays as an actor, here Uncle Vanya. It’s as if Tom Welling found being Clark Kent too much, or Jared Padalecki found the same about his character Sam; but Paul is much older. In the New Yorker, he learns about the Soul Storage Company (the CEO played by David Strathairn, who imitates Bernie Madoff), tucked away behind the trams to Roosevelt Island in New York City.

He goes through the MRI/MRA like process and has his soul extracted, and it is a chickpea. Soon the plot turns to the Russian underground’s trafficking in souls, and he winds up in St. Petersburg trying to get it back. The icy sequences by the canals are quite well filmed.  (I'm reminded of "Being John Malkovich".)

I once knew of a novel manuscript in which souls were traded like stock shares. In my own harddrive book (no, not published yet), souls are combined by a bizarre virus, which carries the memories of other personalities which take over some people who “recover”, in a bizarre process of contraction of the population.

Even on a weekday night, the film was fairly well attended at Landmark E Street in Washington DC, and the audience (young adults and empty nesters both) found it funny, particulary when Giamatti is served a Russian dish of chickpeas.

Picture: Coney Island boardwalk, near Seaside Paddleball Courts; this appears in the film, but this is my own photo from Nov. 2004.

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