Meta-Cinema for the Soul

Did you roll your eyes at the by-the-numbers triteness of Being John Malkovich? Did you yawn and squirm in your seat at the formulaic banality of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Did you mutter “same old, same old” as you walked out of Synecdoche, New York? Well, Charlie Kaufman may have failed you, but don’t give up hope on a truly original piece of absurdist meta-cinema until you’ve seen Cold Souls, the new feature from Sophie Barthes.

The film stars the perennially forlorn Paul Giamatti in the role of the actor Paul Giamatti, who finds himself in a miserable funk from the struggle to get a handle on the title role in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Learning (from a New Yorker article, naturally) about a clinic in which the soul can be extracted from the body and put in cold storage, Giamatti avails himself of the service, and discovers that his disembodied essential spirit resembles a chickpea. This Gogol-meets-Philip K. Dick fable takes an international twist when Giamatti attempts to retrieve his soul, only to learn it’s been hitchhiked by a Russian TV actress looking to improve her thespian chops. The sad-sack fellow must trudge off to St. Petersburg on an errand of spiritual salvage.

Valley audiences can check out Giamatti’s long, odd night of the soul when Cold Souls is presented by The Phoenix Film Society at Harkins Scottsdale 101.

Thu., Aug. 13, 7 p.m., 2009


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