Tuesday, November 20, 2012

LIFE OF PI: The Film Babble Blog Review

Opening tomorrow, Wednesday, November 21st, at a theater near you:

LIFE OF PIE (Dir. Ang Lee, 2012)

For his first film since 2009’s TAKING WOODSTOCK, Ang Lee has taken what to many (including me) thought was an unfilmable novel (written by Yann Martel, published in 2001), and turned it into a vivid visual spectacle.

But much like Paul Thomas Anderson’s THE MASTER from a few months back, its beauty may not transcend audiences’ bafflement over what it’s all supposed to mean.

But let’s start with the story. In an extremely notable film debut, the well-cast Suraj Sharma plays Pi Patel, a spiritually hungry Indian boy who lives at his family’s zoo in Pondicherry, India (the opening credits contain wondrous shots of the various zoo animals).

When his family decides to sell the zoo, Pi travels with them and the animals on a cargo ship to North America. The weather gets violently rough, and the ship sinks, leaving Pi as the only human survivor stranded in a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a vicious Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. That’s right.

The tale is told, in feature-length flashback form, by an older Pi (Irrfan Khan) to Rafe Spall, who is only credited as “The Writer.” Thankfully, this doesn’t mean there’s voice-over narration so we’re alone with Pi and his peculiar predicament.

The tiger, mostly rendered in flawless CGI, stays for stretches under a tarp, allowing Pi space to build a makeshift raft which he ties to the boat, so that he can rest in safety.

One by one, the other animals are killed. After a series of gripping tension-filled scenes with the backdrop of the vast ocean (their journey spans 227 days), Pi and Richard Parker reach a surreal island (as if the rest of this film isn’t surreal) filled with thousands of meercats.

That’s as far as I’ll go with the plot. Largely due to the explemplary cinematography by Claudio Miranda, LIFE OF PI is overwhelmingly immersive eye candy, utilizing some of the best 3D imagery since Martin Scorsese’s HUGO. One’s eyes can get just as lost in the shining sea as Pi and his tiger companion.

However, the conclusion isn’t as succinct or effective as it was in Martel’s novel even though David Magee’s screenplay adaptation is faithful and contains the same basic material. It still works, but it was a much satisfying ending in the book. I believe that’s because the religious undertones were part of what was unfilmable in the original text.

LIFE OF PI looks like no other film in director Lee’s (who also produced) filmography. Its Spielbergian sunniness, and its soaring scope makes it stand out from his other work, though he’s come really close to this aesthetic before (see: CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON).

“Why does it have to mean anything?” The Older Pi asks “The Writer.” It’s a good question, and sure, it doesn’t have to mean anything, because there’s a huge difference between a work that’s meaningless, and a work that frees one from meaning. Although it lacks the depth of the book, and its vision may not be as infinite as the amount of digits of the mathematical constant that our hero takes his name from, it still achieves the latter.

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. Photos courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

More later...


Armando dela Cruz said...

This is good to know. I won't be seeing this in a few weeks (Foreign release takes weeks after local) though.

From the Philippines, with love.

Pallavi Srivastava said...

Really nice information about this movie. I will wait of this movie.
Movie Reviews

Shayari said...

Can be called the twin brother of Avatar in the sense of ENTERTAINMENT. Integrated 3D special effects, holophonic sound effects and great team work makes this movie a worth watch.