And All That Jazz (Film Thoughts: Sylvie’s Love/Soul)

I just saw two films back to back that have the same character: jazz. And jazz is always in, it is always in style.

I knew from the first scene in Eugene Ashe’s ‘Sylvie’s Love’ that I would love it: it’s a lush and romantic Christmas Valentine, and it opens with Nancy Wilson singing ‘The Nearness Of You.’ Even better, the main character Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) is waiting outside The Town Hall before a Nancy Wilson concert. The film transports me vividly to my favorite era: mid century New York City, the golden age of Broadway and the Great American songbook, and is an unabashed love story – the kind that make George Sirk used to make, the kind that will make you root for both to get together as they get obstacles upon obstacles.

And the. love here works, thanks mainly to the great romance provided by Thompson (she is luminous here) and Nnamdi Asomugha. They are filmed with the boldest colors, which makes their love affair more cinematic. The storyline is on the thin side, to be honest, but no matter, you will still feel each joy and tear that the characters go through. It’s not easy to find a potent romantic feature nowadays, and this one more than fits the bill.

Jazz also frames teh narrative in Disney/Pixar’s ‘Soul,’ and that is the only thing that attracted me to this film, which I would have otherwise ignored (I have never seen a Pixar film – fun fact about me) Directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Power, the film is about a jazz pianist (voiced by Jamie Foxx) who gets the gig of his dreams, playing for Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett) but after he does, falls in a manhole, and gets comatose. He spends the rest of the film trying to get back to Earth.

It’s more than that of course. I enjoyed the scenes depicting human life – New York City is rendered beautifully. But – and this is a totally taste thing – the ‘whimsical’ just did not appeal to me, and that is the whole middle part of the film.

I wish I liked it fully. But I do understand I am not the target audience for this. At least now I can say I have seen a Pixar film.

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