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The Essential Guide to Bristol
20 October 2009
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Cold Souls (12A)

The ViewBristol Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/10/2009

Opens Friday 13 November 2009

London Film Festival
6.30pm, Saturday 17th October, Vue Screen 6
6.45pm, Sunday 18th October, Vue Screen 9
9pm, Sunday 18th October, Vue Screen 6
1.45pm, Monday 19th October, Vue Screen 9

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 101 mins

Hugely enjoyable, frequently funny and ultimately thought-provoking comedy with a delightfully absurd script, note-perfect direction and a terrific central performance from Paul Giamatti.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Sophie Barthes, Cold Souls stars Paul Giamatti (playing himself) as an actor whose rehearsals for an upcoming stage production of Uncle Vanya have left him profoundly depressed, to the consternation of both his wife (Emily Watson) and his director (Michael Tucker). Seeking a solution, Giamatti answers an advertisement for cold storage of souls and is surprised at how easy the procedure is, though he's somewhat disconcerted to discover what his soul actually looks like.

Meanwhile, Nina (Dina Korzun), who works as a mule transporting souls from Russia to America, is charged with procuring the soul of an American actor (like Al Pacino) for her gangster boss's girlfriend (Oksana Lada). However, things quickly get complicated when Giamatti decides he wants his soul back.

The Good
Essentially, Cold Souls is like a Charlie Kaufman movie without Charlie Kaufman. The intelligent, sharply written script is packed with witty dialogue and the plot takes several delightfully amusing turns, like a cross between a Kaufman movie, a Borges short story, a Chekhov play and that episode of The Simpsons where Bart sells Milhouse his soul for five bucks.

Giamatti is wonderful in the lead role, clearly relishing the chance to both poke fun at himself and also explore some serious, genuinely thought-provoking themes. There's also terrific support from the always wonderful Watson, from Dina Korzun (whose face alone is heartbreaking to watch) and from David Strathairn, who's hilarious as the matter-of-fact manager of the soul storage facility.

The Great
As a director, Barthes gets the tone exactly right, playing down the fantasy elements and creating the perfect blend of absurd comedy, suspense and thought-provoking emotional drama.

Worth seeing?
Cold Souls is a hugely enjoyable, superbly written and brilliantly acted black comedy that marks writer-director Sophie Barthes out as a talent to watch. Highly recommended.

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Cold Souls (12A)
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