Cartoon movies usually start with a spectacular action scene to trap the smallest viewers in their seats. ‘Luca’ begins to the sounds of Puccini’s aria ‘O mio babbino caro’ in the voice of Maria Callas, that sounds on the gramophone of a fishing boat that works under the moon. We are in a picturesque fishing village on the Italian Riviera in the 1950s. And under the waters of the Mediterranean, little Luca is dedicated to herding fish and supporting his family. It is a sea creature in a civilization parallel to ours. But Luca is increasingly curious to surface and visit Portorosso (the nod to the master Hayao Miyazaki is served).
Pixar’s latest wonder moves away from the significance of ‘Soul’ and bets on a small and endearing story of awakening to life, what Americans call ‘coming of age’, and of defending the difference. Luca and his friend Alberto adopt human form when they leave the sea, which allows them to camouflage themselves among the inhabitants of Portorosso and become friends with Giulia, the girl with the most concerns in the town. The fantastic character of the plot is not as important as the component of pure enjoyment of a couple of lads during a summer in which they will make momentous decisions. As a result of the trailer, there were even those who intuited a homoerotic relationship between the two friends, looking for similarities with ‘Call me by your name’, that its newcomer director, the Genoese Enrico Casarosa, had to come out to deny it.
Casarosa has looked back to recover the hedonistic sensations of Mediterranean culture: the sun, the sea, the food … Luca discovers the taste of a pasta dish and an ice cream. And he dreams of driving a Vespa in a movie that can be seen as a precious advertisement that the Italian brand could never afford. On the soundtrack they sing Gianni Morandi and Rita Pavone. And the great Mine, as if it were an Almodóvar film, it causes chills with ‘Città vuota’ and ‘Tintarella di luna’.
“When I went to school with my friend, I began to imagine an incredible double personality as a sea monster because I felt very different from the other children,” explains Enrico Casarosa. «Being a marine animal is a metaphor for atypical children, whether due to sex, race or other issue.When you can recognize yourself as different is when you are ready to seek your tribe and be happy.
In Pixar’s postcard Italy, the hanging clothes reveal a poster of ‘Vacation in Rome’ (1953). Marcello Mastroianni, Pinocchio and Leonardo da Vinci also have a place in this luminous fable that takes place at a leisurely pace, where the villain of the story is a ‘vitelloni’, one of ‘The useless’ from that Fellini film, which is only dedicated to chulear in town. By the way, the character, Ercole Visconti, he wears a sweater on his shoulders, a detail that will enchant Álex de la Iglesia, for whom this way of dressing the garment symbolizes absolute evil: like the ultra-rightists who beat up beggars in ‘The Day of the Beast’.
«’Luca’ is a love letter to a land that I miss very much. This movie has been a wonderful way to bring my home back ”, says Casarosa, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2011 for his short film ‘The Moon’, in which the sea and the stars were as crucial as in this film. Four years of work and a team of 400 people have been necessary for ‘Luca’ Arrive this June 18 at Disney Plus at no extra cost for subscribers.