Sophie Barthes / USA, 2008
English and Russian version / Czech subtitles, 101 min
In this melancholy comedy by debuting director, Sophie Barthes, we find Paul Giamatti (playing the well-known New York actor, Paul Giamatti) in the midst of an existential crisis brought on by his role in an upcoming production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. After seeing an article in The New Yorker magazine, angst-ridden Paul places himself in the care of a mysterious company which guarantees him relief by extracting and temporarily storing his soul. Now suddenly unburdened, the celebrated actor soon encounters one bizarre complication after another, becoming even more complicate when his soul is stolen and sent to Russia by the "black market". While the director acknowledges inspiration from Gogol, Buñuel, Jung and Woody Allen, her mature debut is one of the most original films to come out of this year. She presents the story, based on her own dream, incorporating surreal elements and philosophical overlay, with intellectual playfulness and a sense of the absurd. Alongside the superb Giamatti, who was also involved in the production, the film also boasts the equally outstanding Emily Watson, David Strathairn and Dina Korzun.
While most of the film is in English, about 15% of the sequences are in Russian with Czech subtitles.