Among the many possible names that could have come to mind to all of us, it was precisely Soul, the highly anticipated new film from Pixar - the most intellectual production house in the world - to open the 2020 Film Festival, where the Oscar-winning director Pete Docter he will be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to animation cinema. In a program full of highly anticipated films previously scheduled for the most important festivals around the world (many selected films that should have premiered in Cannes), Soul arrives in the theaters of the Festival at the same time as Disney's much discussed decision to make release the film for the general public directly on the brand new streaming platform Disney +. A case? We like to think not.
A concert of emotions
Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a New York middle school music teacher who dreams of breaking into the jazz scene of Big Apple. One day, finally, Joe earns the opportunity to play at the Half Note Club, one of the best clubs in the city together with one of the most famous quartets of the New York jazz scene. On the same day, however, an accident will throw him into a fantastic pre-life place called The Great Before, where new souls prepare to go to Earth by receiving personalities, peculiarities and interests before coming into the world. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with 22 (Tina Fey), a little soul unaware of the charms of life and convinced that he wants to stay forever. in the present day. As Joe desperately tries to prove to 22 what makes life special in order to earn the right to return to Earth, man will find unexpected answers about his life and existence in general.
Pete Docter, author of some of Pixar's most exciting titles (including Up and Inside Out, both Academy Award winners for Best Animated Feature), he signs this existential fable with a jazz and African American tone, a happy marriage between the aforementioned Inside Out (2015) and the musical fairy tale Coco (2017). The American director imagines in Soul the bureaucratic forms of the afterlife and the nowhere with clear references to the bureaucratic systems of the psyche imagined in Inside Out and Coco's imaginative and colorful World of the Dead.
Docter plays with Mirò's artistic forms to create the personal of this dimension between dimensions, with very special and enchanting effects. It would have been nice to see, however, so much intelligence and imagination used for all aspects of the Great Before, qualities that the director is certainly endowed with given the countless and brilliant ideas of his previous films (which counts, in addition to the aforementioned titles, a favorite of animation lovers like Monster & Co.). Surprisingly, the actual film begins when the protagonist abandons the fantasy worlds that seemed to be the film's main attraction: Docter and film co-director Kemp Powers draw a New York rarely designed with such raw and realistic romanticism, dotted with fascinating characters, sounds and noises of a city whose charm has been told countless times and which is synonymous with American culture.
The musical aspect of the film, however, is the real protagonist. Or rather, the musical element that stands out beyond the leivmotiv of the film, is transformed into a real metaphorical element of the theme that forms the backbone of the production: Joe's obsession with jazz, the choice of a genre that (in addition to being one of the great American traditions) makes uncertainty and improvisation its strong point, becomes a metaphor of life as an experience of chance, of the joy of the small moments of beauty that make being in the world so much wonderful as it is beyond our control. Soul is an ambitious project, a film that attempts to answer questions about life and existence in general, with perhaps fluctuating results and not always one hundred percent convincing, but whose sincerity and wonder strike more than once and more. one way.