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Pixar’s New FIlm ‘Luca’ Is A Homage To Italy And Childhood Friendships

When Pixar unveiled the trailer for "Luca," people thought it was Pixar's LGBTQ+ film. Critics now think it might be an allegory to LGBTQ+ relationships and childhoods.

Text by Javier Romualdo

A timeless summer, the gorgeous Italian coast, Vespas, gelatos, and two friends who share a secret are the main ingredients of Luca, Pixar's new film that promises to take over from the Oscar-winning Soul with a premiere on the Disney+ platform.

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Its director, Enrico Casarosa, had wanted for such a long time to create a project that would serve as a tribute to his homeland, but he also wanted to tell a story about friendship. 

"I realized that summers were the best season, and the best setting was in the villages of Cinque Terre; it was impossible to separate that."

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Luca tells the story of two 13-year-old friends, Luca and Alberto, who spend their days in a village on the Italian Riviera.

In reality, they're hiding something: they're sea monsters that, when not in contact with water, look like humans. The two protagonists are based on Casarosa's life. Alberto was his best friend at the time and someone he's still in touch with. 

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"He was the complete opposite of me, very extroverted. I was the introverted one. But we both felt a bit like losers, weirdos... we weren't the prototypical popular people," he recalled.

As the characters discover the human world, they also have to deal with their own problems. Alberto awaits the return of his father, and Luca longs for freedom from an overprotective family that sees only dangers around him.

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"THERE'S A METAPHOR ABOUT FEELING DIFFERENT, WHATEVER THAT IS."

When Pixar unveiled the trailer for Luca, audiences thought it was going to be Pixar's very first LGBTQ+ film. Summer, Italy, two friends, and a traditional village; a sort of animated G-Rated Call Me By Your Name replete with similarities to Luca Guadagnino's film.

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"I never thought about it, this film is about a stage before the boyfriends arrive, the girlfriends... and all that complexity," Casarosa replied.

Between Luca and Alberto jealousy arises, but in a friendly way. Especially, when they befriend the intrepid Giulia who sparks a sports competition between the friends.

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"If we saw those kids the following summer... it might get complicated," he joked. But that wasn't the intention.

Disney/Pixar

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As it’s usual with all Pixar projects, Luca offers readings for all ages and sensibilities. For children, it's a story about friendship and being honest with oneself; adults will relive the desire to know the world in adolescence, and for the LGBTQ+ community, it could be about growing up feeling different.

"The fact that they are sea monsters is a metaphor that represents any differences. The kids share a secret," the filmmaker detailed.

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But beyond the plot, Pixar has once again recreated a real scenario through its renowned style.

Portorosso, a fictional town that could well be Manarola, Monterosso, Riomaggiore, or any other town in Cinque Terre, serves as the setting on which the studio responsible for Toy Story, Cars, and Coco, recreates an animated version of this region declared a World Heritage Site.

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Disney/Pixar

Casarosa, who had already reimagined the Italian coastline Pixar-style with the short film La Luna (2011) (nominated for an Oscar for best directing in 2011), was guided by his colleagues in California.

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"I grew up there and know it well, but I remembered that when we recreated Mexico for Coco we worked hard to get everything correct and accurate. So I consulted a lot, I wanted to avoid making it too cliché but also very specific and only understood by people from Genoa," Casarosa explained.

People roam the town of cobblestone streets on Vespas and bicycles, feed on seafood, pasta, and gelato like good Italians jealously guarding their traditions.

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In Portorosso, on the other hand, there are no smartphones or tourist excursions. Casarosa decided to set his film in the 1950s and 1960s to make it more "timeless."

"There is something special about the Italian music of that era, at the height of the golden age of Italian cinema. Even the Vespa designs looked prettier to me then," he noted.

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After more than two decades living in the United States, Casarosa knows well the fascination of his country on the other side of the Atlantic and has offered a new journey, even if only for the hour and a half that Luca lasts. EFE

Text courtesy of EFE

Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards

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