Film Reviews and Discussion.
Dir: Ang Lee
Duration: 127 minutes
Life of (the) Pi(ous); adaptation of the ‘unfilmable’ book. Can visual ingenuity mould an engaging tale? Or is this merely a matter of style over content?
Ang Lee, he who incurred critical opprobrium and commercial indifference (bar the die hards. Always the die hards) for the ridiculous Incredible Hulk adaptation, Hulk, is not the first on the list of potential directors for a spiritual fable of emotional (and literal) shipwreck.
An author is suffering from writer’s block. He is sent by a friend to visit an Indian man whom, it is claimed, will shift his writing paralysis. Once at the man’s house, he goes one better; he tells him that after he has regaled him with a story, he will not only cure his block, but he will also make him believe in God.
What unfolds is a tale reaching back into 1950s India and the life of a curious young son of a zoo owning family. Being forced to move to Canada, the family take to the high seas to travel to their new home, taking their livestock with them. Whilst at sea, the boat is sunk by a wickedly vicious storm. Young Pi is left stranded on a boat, with a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra and a Bengal tiger called Richard Parker. What unfolds is a dizzying story of the fight for survival, both physically and emotionally. The wildness of the sea is matched by that of Pi’s shipmates and the fiercely cruel nature of these animals is never anthropomorphised for the audience. It is all the more effective for it.
Ang Lee has managed the improbable. He has crafted a fantastic feature of invention and sturdy storytelling. It may even pip Avatar in terms of its use of 3D. It is a film courting the Academy, and rightly so. If there was a film in 2012 that offers something new and something traditional, both at the same time, it is this one. Start placing your bets now, please.
If you like this, try this: Princess Mononoke (1997) – A Studio Ghibli production that is a thoughtful treatise on the environment, and offers spiritual resonance but not at the expense of telling a compelling tale.
You can find the trailer for Life of Pi here: