Four reasons to be enchanted by the poetry and jazz of Soul


This metaphysical tale about a frustrated pianist and a rebellious soul has something to enchant young and old alike: from its music to its resolutely modernist visual audacity when it comes to evoking the afterlife.

Posted on Disney + on December 25, Drunk has regaled since Friday many homes marveling and reassuring young and old after a year of pandemic and confinement with his invitation to explore our humanity in what it has most mysterious: happiness and curiosity. Drunk, which received the Cannes 2020 label is in the hands of expert Pete Docter, already at the helm of introspectives Vice versa and Up there.

A metaphysical tale for 2020

New York pianist living only for jazz, Joe languishes in his teaching job. After years of disappointments, he finally landed the concert of his life. But an unfortunate misstep on an open sewer mouth throws him into the “Grand-Avant”. In this indescribable place, new souls acquire their personality, character and uniqueness before being sent to Earth. Decided to return to our lower world, Joe will support 22 who resisted all the distinguished mentors of creation, from Gandhi to Newton through the boxer Mohamed Ali.

The premise of the animated film can impress at first glance because it addresses the themes of death, the beyond, the unspeakable of the mystery of life. But it is precisely this seriousness, this invitation to seize the present moment that makes it so charming and soothes at the end of a year of 2020 trying with uncertainties. Initiated four years ago, Drunk was born from a questioning of its director Pete Docter in front of his two children: “From their birth, they manifested such different personalities. How is that possible when they haven’t even spent a while on Earth? Why does he arrive with certain character traits? “. From one thing to another, Soul wonders where we come from, who we are and if we have a destiny.

The older ones will see it as a philosophical tale between an existentialist Joe and a 22 nihilist. Drunk offers an invitation to let go, to refocus, to enjoy the simplest joys of everyday life such as this ray of sunshine, a good pizza or just the grace of a leaf fluttering in the wind. The little ones will appreciate a gateway to more existential questions and perhaps the means of approaching these subjects with adults. Drunk will also speak a lot to adolescents “who wonder how to find their place in society, who are assailed by doubts ”. “I put a crazy energy in my passion, animation, but that was not enough to make me happy. Drunk challenges the cult of performance and shows that to be happy you don’t need to be successful and shine at all costs. You can be you ”, Pete Docter pleads.

A graphic design of insolent abstraction

A Michel and the grumpy Terry who counts souls Pixar / Disney

When we spoke to him in the fall of 2019, Pete Docter promised that we would be surprised by the looks of the Grand-Avant. He didn’t think so well put it. Like his existential questions, Drunk pushes Pixar’s graphic limits in abstraction. Souls have the appearance of droplets. The people in charge of the Grand-Avant, the Michel, who ensure the traffic of souls and carry out their counting have scarecrow figures. These are living lines! Their faces look different depending on the angle you look at them. To do this, Pixar has developed new technology that generates a new type of curve and allows animators to turn each individual control point on or off. The outline of the Michel is a large white line that makes one think furiously of the grumpy little man of the Italian Osvaldo Cavandoli, whose adventures on a drawing sheet made all the salt of the cartoon La Linea. For his part, Pete Docter readily cites in his research the influence of Picasso, Calder or Brancusi.

The Micheles govern a vast campus shrouded in a perpetual dawn in the blue and pink sky. There reigns an elegance and a mathematical perfection. This space also has more psychedelic and New Age nooks and crannies with its grand infinite staircase to the beyond against a starry black night background. In reverse, Joe’s New York is warm and vibrant with familiarity, quirky with flaws and patina. The librarians of Drunk roamed Queens, its clubs, schools and brass bands.

A majestic soundtrack

Herbie Hancock was one of the musical inspirations of Drunk Pixar / Disney

Jazz was an obvious musical metaphor: it is the realm of improvisation without a score, like life», Points out Pete Docter. Musically, the style practiced by Joe is similar to that of Herbie Hancock, whose melodies have often been used in hip-hop titles. The idea was to speak to connoisseurs as well as to the younger generations. Eager to represent jazz in an authentic way, Pete Docter, his co-writer Kemp Powers and their producers called on professionals, including Herbie Hancock, Daveed Diggs, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. Their recommendations fed into Jon Batiste’s soundtrack. The musician signed the compositions and arrangements for all jazz titles. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, of rock group Nine Inch Nails and frequent collaborators of David Fincher, took care of melodies from the Soul World. With their synthesizers, the duo wanted to distinguish regions: the “Grand-Before”, the “Great Beyond”, the “Astral Plane”, the “Who am I? ”Aka the Michel. Everyone has their own identity.

An impeccable original version and French version

It’s rare enough to report it but Drunk is savored and (re) seen as well in original version as in French version and without the slightest drop in quality. Across the Atlantic, Joe and 22 are voiced by Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey. With us, it is Omar Sy and Camille Cottin who lend themselves to the exercise. The star of Ten percent lets go, has fun, sparkles, and brings out the rebellious and punk side of 22, rebellious, jaded and indomitable like a teenager. Omar Sy is in a more moderate register, perfect for chronicling Joe’s slow awakening to life. Ramzy Bedia doubles the whimsical Vendelune, a hippie who earns his living in the Big Apple by rotating billboards but who knows how to move between the two worlds.

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