Cold Souls: Sophie Barthes Surreal Comedy about Overly Anxious Actor

“Cold Souls,” a surreal comedy about a perpetually anxious actor who needs relief from his weary soul, is the impressive debut feature of Sophie Barthes, who also scripted.

Boasting one of the best ensembles around, the film stars Paul Giamatti, David Strathairn, Emily Watson, Dina Korzun, Lauren Ambrose, and newcomer Katheryn Winnick. World-premiering in January at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, “Cold Souls” will be released by the Samuel Godwyn Company in New York and Los Angeles August 7, with a national roll-out to follow.

In this critique of the pervasive and alluring American consumerism, souls can be extracted and traded as commodities. In a mode similar to Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry’s work, balancing deadpan humor and pathos, reality and fantasy, the film presents Paul Giamatti as himself, agonizing over his interpretation of Chekhov’s classic play, “Uncle Vanya.”

Paralyzed by anxiety, he stumbles upon a solution via a “New Yorker” article about a high-tech company promising to alleviate suffering by extracting souls.
Seeking advice, he encounters Dr. Flintstein (Strathairn), who informs him, “When you get rid of the soul, everything becomes more purposeful,” and that his consciousness will not be affected because other useful elments would be retained.   Can a doctor named  Flinstein be trusted? Giamatti enlists their service, only to discover that his soul is the shape and size of a chickpea. 

Paul’s goal to reinstate it after he survives the performance, becomes more complicated (and funnier) than anticipated, when a mysterious and beautiful soul-trafficking “mule” (Dina borrows Giamatti’s stored soul for an ambitious but giftless Russian soap-opera actress.
  Assuming the shape of a bizarre road film, “Cold Souls” tracks the now soulless Paul, who has no choice but to follow the trail back to St. Petersburg.  

Like Charlie Kaufman-Jonze’s
Being John Malkovich” and Gondry’sEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Cold Souls” is a playful postmodern metaphyical meditation infused with dark humor and serious ideas.  In the production notes, Barthes acknowledges the influence of reading Carl Jung’s Modern Man in Search of a Soul.”

Outrageously f
unny in some moments, charmingly light in others, and always wildly imaginative and unpredictable, “Cold Souls,” sort of a sci-fi fantasy-adventure, aims to explore the shifting moods and inner struggles of a man in search of is essence and the meaning of the universe.


About Director Sophie Barthes

Born in France, Sophie Barthes grew up in the Middle East and South America. A Columbia University graduate, Barthes co-directed the short film “Snowblink” with life partner and cinematographer Andrij Parekh, and directed a Unicef documentary in Yemen on women’s literacy programs.


Her short film “Happiness” played at Sundance 2007 and more than seventy other film festivals. Both “Happiness” and “Cold Souls” won the NYSCA Individual Artists Grants and the Showtime Tony Cox Award for Best Screenplay at the Nantucket Film Festival.

Barthes completed her residency at the Nantucket Screenwriters Colony and the 2007 Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Lab. She was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” and is a recipient of the Annenberg Foundation Film Fellowship.