Brief Synopsis of Film: Ang Lee directs Life of Pi, based on Yann Martel’s 2001 novel about a 16 year old boy shipwrecked in the Pacific Ocean. Pi hails from Pondicherry, India and embraces Hinduism, Catholicism and Camus. Once shipwrecked, Pi struggles to survive on a boat with a Bengal tiger. Lee opens the film with Pi as a grown man, sharing his survival tale with a writer looking for a story. Pi’s story, so it goes, is a story “that will make one believe in God”.
Did you see Prometheus on your laptop? Did you roll your eyes every time someone spoke about What It All Means? Did you see Prometheus in theaters, maybe in 3D? Did you roll your eyes every time someone spoke about What It All Means but you didn’t care because all that twaddle was effectively eclipsed by the film’s splendiferous 3D? So it is with Life of Pi.
Prometheus is visually breathtaking in XD 3D. But I rolled my eyes at the overt profundity of the script. Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw is addicted to The Meaning of It All and other profundity junkyisms but my eyes were just so happy throughout Prometheus.
This isn’t a review of Prometheus. This is a review of Life of Pi, currently in theaters mostly everywhere, including in XD 3D format. And, similar to Prometheus, Life of Pi is a remarkable film – on the big screen.
Also similar to Prometheus: Life of Pi wrestles with The Big Questions in Life. Why are we here? What is God? What is there to live for? Prometheus and Life of Pi are both rated PJ – Profundity Junky – for some deep questions, pervasive profundity and brief noumena. Exploring these turgid, stock themes concerning “the nature of reality” is nothing new in cinema. So, if a film such as Life of Pi intends to chase The Big Questions, then one small question I have is: how does Life of Pi elevate the profundity junky genre, if at all? That is, considering the oversimplified existential crisis of its script, does the movie watching experience of Life of Pi overcome the story’s hackneyed loftiness?
The answer is yes. Because the clichéd grandiosity of Life of Pi’s script is superseded by the grandiosity of its 3D technology. Life of Pi is a standout film of 2012. As is Prometheus. And I speak about both in a review of Life of Pi because these movies are intertwined as two players in contemporary film that are progressing the new digital technology available today. And it’s the technology embraced by the directors during production and the technology available for the viewer at the movie theater that make these films so thrilling. The script plays second fiddle to the visual story in front of us.
Life of Pi is a film serious about two things: Life. And blowing your minds in 3D. Forgive the lines: “God works in mysterious ways.” And forgive the story’s theme of “accepting all religions” despite the logical contradictions involved with a supposed task. Let’s not roll our eyes so much here. Life of Pi is sincere in a Disney kind of way. But Disney sentiment is enjoyable sometimes. Just like karaoke is enjoyable sometimes (all the time). It just so happens that Life of Pi is a Disney story in unconventional settings (1970s India, tiny boat at sea with Bengal tiger) shot with meticulous care in glorious 3D.
Life of Pi features a production crew of 600+ people adapting Yann Martel’s symbolism to Ang Lee’s vision. The commitment of the crew and the passion in the filmmaking is evident. Life of Pi wasn’t thrown together to start a franchise quickly (the film has seen various tiered directors come and go over the last 9 years). The push by 20th Century Fox to use the Avatar technology (part CG, part performance capture) in making Life of Pi does the novel justice on screen. The audience spends nearly two hours with a teenage boy on a boat with a Bengal tiger.
Which, lastly, brings me to Richard Parker. The Bengal tiger. Richard Parker joins Gollum and Hal 9000 in the category of nonhuman objects that should be nominated for Best Actor awards. The performance of the digital tiger overshadows a very capable and charming performance from Suraj Sharma, who plays 16 year old Pi on the boat. Considering the major green screen performances Sharma was involved with and the fact that this is the New Dehli novice’s first attempt at acting in film is promising.
Ang Lee merits Best Director nods for technicality, heart, and the ability to adapt complex material to film. “An unfilmable book,” they cried. Ang Lee filmed it.
Chani envisions a Hollywood where Daniel Day-Lewis or Michael Fassbender star as Ludwig Wittgenstein in a film based on Ray Monk’s biography, The Duty of Genius. Paul Thomas Anderson directs. Her Hollywood also casts Ezra Miller in Søren Kierkegaard’s Diary of a Seducer. Anne Hathaway stars in Gaspar Noé’s next production. HBO debuts a travel show starring Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell and Tommy Wiseau as Tommy Wiseau. And Michael Haneke directs a sequel to The Seventh Continent. In 3D.
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