Watch 7 Clips From Paul Giamatti's Soul-Rattling New Movie

Cold Souls, the new film about a bizarre soul-extraction process, is mostly a chance for the movie's lead to stretch his comedy muscles in an existential wasteland, judging from seven new clips. Good thing it's Paul Giamatti, then. Spoilers ahead.

In the above clip, Dr. Flintstein explains to Giamatti, who's playing an actor named Paul Giamatti, that we have no clue what the soul is or what it does — but we can remove it, with a patented new technology. I love the part where he offers Giamatti the soul-visualizing goggles. (Incidentally, I think half of this movie's problem of appearing to be a Charlie Kaufman knock-off would have gone away if writer/director Sophie Barthes had named Giamatti's character something else.)

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And then in this second clip, Giamatti's apparently had his soul removed, and now they're testing to see how much of it remains, using a "soul stimulator."

Giamatti has a fight with his wife, over his insensitive behavior and celery-munching. I'm just guessing this scene happens after his soul has been taken out.

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So Giamatti goes back to Dr. Flintstein and (I'm guessing) finds out his soul has been misplaced. But he can rent a different soul, including one imported from Russia.

So when Giamatti finally comes clean and tells his wife about having his soul removed, he's borrowing the soul of a Russian poet.

Giamatti finally tracks down Nina, who tells him where his missing soul has actually gone.

And unfortunately the Russian gangster's wife who's "borrowing" Giamatti's soul doesn't want to give it back, leading to a debate about soul adultery. The wife thinks she's actually being inhabited by the soul of Al Pacino, and she needs it to act in a Russian soap opera.

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This sort of movie is always a bit contrived, taking a ridiculous concept and seeing how far the film-maker can run with it. But it does create an opportunity to ask some of the same questions Dollhouse has been asking about what makes us who we are, only from a different angle — instead of the memories and skills being swapped out, it's the much more nebulous "soul" — and it looks like Barthes and Giamatti take full advantage of this thematic richness. Honestly, a lot probably depends on how much we believe in Giamatti's reasons for wanting to give up his soul in the first place. It seems like such a patently bad idea to begin with, let's hope his initial decision is set up well.

We'll all find out soon enough. Cold Souls hits theaters (in New York and L.A., anyway) on August 7. [Sci Fi Cool]

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DISCUSSION

I saw this at Sundance, and I have to recommend it. The whole storyline with the Russian soul mule was actually boring and didn't really hold my interest, but Giamatti nails it. Every scene, he's hilarious. And David Straitharn as the doctor is a scene stealer.