(2009) dir. Sophie Barthes
Cut from a similar cloth perhaps to the work of Charlie Kaufman, especially films like Being John Malkovich (1999) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Cold Souls is a film high on concept and straddling the gap between absurdist comedy and meaningful drama. The Being John Malkovich analogy is most apt in that this film could have been titled “Paul Giamatti’s Soul”, since it’s about Paul Giamatti, an actor, played by Paul Giamatti, the actor. And though it’s not the same one, it is the same one.
The concept is that a technology is developed for extracting one’s soul and putting it into deep storage, to lighten one’s life a bit. And the technology also allows people to take others’ extracted souls, harvested largely from Russia, and to use them for various forms of enlightenment. In this concept, the soul is more like a gland in the brain and has varying visual representations from jellybeans to chunks of coal to Giamatti’s soul which is the size, color, and shape of a chickpea.
There are moments of broader humor, physical humor, as in when gesticulating, Giamatti tosses his soul out of its container. But the film is also more focused on the exeriential meanings of using or trafficking others’ souls in your head. It’s meant to have your laughs and cry it too (or at least be poetically moved).
For the most part, the film works. There are lots of plot point holes, etc. if you really start contemplating it, but the idea for this film is not so much to get worked up over the details and just trek along with the story that the film is telling, with its chosen resonances rather than your brain’s own curiosity of the situation.
Surrealist comedy. Maybe that’s the genre. This and every Terry Gilliam film ever made.