Director Ang Lee proves he’s a master of image and imagination in remarkable Life of Pi.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
There is no such thing as a perfect memory. We remember things the way we choose to remember them – honestly, with exaggeration, with modesty, etc. This is why storytelling is a fine art – it’s never about the accuracy of the tale, but the intrigue it creates in the consumer. As a filmmaker Ang Lee understands this. And with Life Of Pi, he’s made a movie about it.
The story starts simply enough: While looking for inspiration, an author (Rafe Spall) tracks down Piscine Molitor Patel (Irrfan Khan), an eloquent Indian gentleman with quite a tale to tell. Piscine, who prefers the nickname “Pi” because the pronunciation of his full name sounds like “pissing,” follows the Hindu, Christian andMuslim faiths. As the story begins, his family owns a zoo in India but is forced to sell it and move to Canada. While travelling the Pacific, a storm destroys their ship, leaving a teenage Pi (Suraj Sharma, remarkably making his screen debut), Richard Parker and a handful of other animals alone on a lifeboat.
If you’re thinking it’s good that Pi isn’t alone, know this: Richard Parker is the family’s Bengal tiger. And tigers have big appetites, which doesn’t bode well for a scrawny Indian boy. What follows is a mystical, wonderful tale of great imagination and bold determination that is never hindered by the fact that we know Pi survives. Consider: Because the question of if he lives is removed we stop worrying about fatal moments and instead become consumed with the journey and how he survives, which is fascinating.
If you’re thinking 90 minutes alone on a boat with a tiger would get tiresome, you couldn’t be more mistaken. This is the best use of 3-D in a long time, and a clear step above Avatar and Hugo because the visuals are so perfectly embedded into the story. There are breathtaking scenes of beauty both above and below the ocean, with moments of sharks, clouds, a whale, flying fish and a jellyfish that are absolutely stunning. This is one of the prettiest movies you will ever see.
In fact, the 3-D and visual effects are so good it’s hard to tell when the tiger is real and when it isn’t. Here’s the answer: Real tigers were used for a few shots when Richard is walking around the boat and swimming in the water. Otherwise visual effects handle the heavy lifting, particularly when Richard jumps at the camera, which feels frighteningly real.
Without a doubt, Life Of Pi is an accomplishment of storytelling and visual splendor, especially given how perfectly everything comes together in the end. This is the type of movie that rightfully gets nominated for numerous Oscars. It’s also a reminder to appreciate what we have. Think of it this way: No matter how hard life gets, at least you’re not stuck on a lifeboat in the Pacific with a hungry tiger.
LIFE OF PI (3½) • Directed by Ang Lee • Starring Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain •Rated PG • 127 min. •At Cannery Row XD, Lighthouse Cinemas, Century Cinemas Del Monte, Northridge Cinemas, Maya Cinemas.