Sophie Barthes and Paul Giamatti on set
The soul-free Giamatti does feel a little lighter, and a little more bored perhaps, but the weight of Russia has been lifted off his shoulders. At the next rehearsal, in what we think is the film’s funniest moment, Paul puts on a performance that out-Shatners, Shatner’s absurdist intensity. The soul extraction facility also offers a rental service, so Paul tries on the essence of a Russian poet to curb his overenthusiastic new version of Vanya. When the weight of the new soul proves even more intense than his own Cartesian cyst, he just wants his old soul back.
But there’s a problem… someone has jacked the ontological goods.His quest to track down his former, but at least familiar, burden takes him to St. Petersburg. There Russian gangsters, soul mules, and those desperate enough to sell their souls for cash, take the film down a slightly darker path, but one still punctuated with absurdist humor.
Light-hearted metaphysics aside, Cold Souls is a worthwhile visit because it’s the type of sci-fi film we never get to see: Smart, funny, and with an aesthetic edge that owes as much to Stanley Kubrick as it does to Andrij Parekh’s austere cinematography. Parekh, who also shares an East Village home with Barthes, was given a co-director credit in the festival circuit cut, and is more known for his gritty verite work on Half Nelson and Sugar , which, as Barthes tells us, are the type of films young indie filmmakers are more likely to make.
“Because of budget. You take a big risk (with sci-fi) because I don’t know if people want to go see more metaphysical, absurdist films,” she explains. “Then,” as Giamatti adds with a twinkle in his eye, “it does have to be about ideas.”
Watch the trailer below.