Monday, August 9, 2010
Cold Souls. (2009) Sophie Barthes
The genre, for me anyway, goes back to the writings of Charlie Kaufman as brought to life by directors Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry. Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind launched the movement, which later gave way for the ever-imaginative The Science of Sleep, and the utterly depressing Synecdoche, New York (which, in all its depression, I still quite admire).
It seems that international directors got involved in the genre, too -- for instance with Christoffer Boe's Reconstruction and Allegro, and Emmanuel Carrère's La moustache.
It's a movement of films based on lost identity, swapped memory, soul searching and human longing. I'm tempted to call it "Pseudo-contemplative with a wry comedic twist," but the word "comedic" can be misleading. I'm also tempted to call it simply "Cerebral lite" or "Fun-pop-Psychological."
I don't know what to call it, but it's a genre I love.
Cold Souls fits in pretty well with the rest of these imaginative stories.
Like John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich, Paul Giamatti turns in a wonderful performance as himself. Or maybe it really isn't himself, since he's had his soul extracted and tried out someone else's. It's great fun when these actors play themselves but when there's a loophole that makes it not really them.
As with the other films I've mentioned, where identity, memory, and reality of the mind is either distorted, infected or has simply gone astray, when you trade in your soul and try on another it only leaves you soul-sick.
If there's any message here it is simply loving yourself for who you are, learning to live at peace in your own skin, attempting to work on yourself and the parts you don't like. That working on yourself and finding peace in your soul is better than envying anyone else.
It's a great message, but the movie is even better when you don't think too hard about it. And you don't have to. It's a film filled with paradoxes and contradictions (if you are carrying another peron's soul and they die, does the soul stay in you or does it die, too?), but it's fun and smart, light and easy, and worth renting for another perfect Giamatti performance.
Filmwell has a wonderful, more in-depth analysis of Cold Souls.