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Cold Souls


Stars: Paul Giamatti, David Strathairn, Emily Watson, Dina Korzun, Katheryn Winnick, Natalia Zvereva, Lauren Ambrose

Director: Sophie Barthes

Here's a comedy that manages to be barking mad without being funny, In fact the film, a bizarre slant on Hans Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes, is mostly as mopy and morose as its hero.

Actor Giamatti (as himself), struggling with a stage interpretation of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, reads an article in The New Yorker about souls, then comes across a section in the yellow pages headed Soul Storage. In no time, he's off to the clinic to meet crackpot scientist Strathairn, who promises to extract 'at least 95 per cent' of the soul that's weighing so heavily on him and, if necessary, replace it with another.

To you and me, the extracted 'souls' look like prunes or chick peas, but the donors, not wishing to appear fools, cluck fondly and/or gasp with amazement.

It seems, however, that there's a black market for these things in Russia, and a chastened Giamatti eventually has to travel to Moscow in an attempt to reclaim his soul, even though he's been warned that 'souls are extremely volatile at altitude'.

You can see that, with a feather-light touch, the whole idea might be hilarious, but it's so drearily directed by Barthes as to drain all the cheer out of not only the situations, but even the murky Technicolor pohpotgraphy. A miss (and give it one).

David Quinlan

USA/Russia 2008. UK Distributor: The Works (Samuel Goldwyn). Technicolor.
101 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 12 Nov 2009