Thursday, December 6, 2012

LIFE OF PI (2012)

Directed By: Ang Lee
Written By: David Magee
Based on the book by: Yann Martel
Cinematography By: Claudio Miranda
Editor: Tim Squyres

Cast: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Ayush Tendon, Gautam Belur, Tabu, Rafe Spall, Gerard Depardieu
Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, is a magical adventure story centering on Pi Patel, the precocious son of a zoo keeper. Dwellers in Pondicherry, India, the family decides to move to Canada, hitching a ride on a huge freighter. After a shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a 26-foot lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, all fighting for survival.

Please read the full review before you pass judgment on what I am saying. This film I struggled with not only while watching but trying to think of a review. I was battling with myself as I didn’t know if I really liked it or not. So let me take you through my decisions when it came to this film.

Yann Martel, the author of the book has stated that his inspiration for the book's premise came from reading a book review of Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar's 1981 novella Max and the Cats, about a Jewish-German refugee who crossed the Atlantic Ocean while sharing his boat with a jaguar.

When it comes to books the audience or readers rather can take time with the material go at their own pace. They build relationships with the characters and the book in general. The book can give those insights and overview of all characters. Allowing the author to paint a full picture, build a universe if need be. The reader has already envisioned the tale in their heads, made their own versions in the imagination. If it’s a best seller there are now huge crowds who all have different versions of the same material. One it becomes a film the challenge to the director is to try and use the book as a guide and give the audience what they want. Try to match the visions they already have in their heads only now infuse the film with their own ideas and visual sense as best they can. While keeping you entertained and still be insightful delivering the tales message. Unfortunately they don’t have as much time as the book and have to get to the point while doing a greatest hits version in 2 hours. So it already is a challenge.

The general consensus of the book was that it was unfilmable. The scope of the story and trying to keep an audience interested especially with wild animals and one human.

At first it seems like it would be a movie that needs a star to keep the audience intrigued so that it could play like CASTAWAY. The film is mostly CGI. Which makes it feel like an animated film almost with some live action instead of the other way around. So of course it feels like they were correct. As it is unfilmmable unless you animate it. Instead of film it. The film never felt real or realistic to me for that reason. I know we are supposed to follow a suspension of disbelief in the audience. It just felt to me like a guy in a water tank in front of a green screen most of the time. I love the dynamic of the film and it’s character but it never brought me in.

I am not the biggest Ang lee fan. I notice that all of his films involve a spirituality of some kind. Usually various characters in the film on a spiritual journey. While I do believe he has the talent of an artist. For all the successes and opportunities, I believe he hasn’t made his grand opus. He feels like indie version on Ron Howard. His films work for the most part and are visually good. He Usually picks very good material. Yet there is definitely no feel of style or a voice behind the scenes. He is a big name director who will always be a name for his body of work yet he doesn’t feel like a full auteur. He keeps getting to make films, so he is winning the battle the best way he can.

The film feels magical like a fantasy. That is one of the reservations I have with the film is that while it is beautiful to look at. It gets to be too much of a good thing after awhile. It’s like paradise sure you’d love to live there and at the beginning it feels great, but seeing the same thing everyday seems to become the norm and it gets boring so that you desire seeing something a bit different. Sort of like the complaints of entertainment sure you love certain bands and the signature sound is great but after a few albums you wish they would grow and try something a bit different while putting there own stamp on it. Here the scenes are visually great but after seeing scene after scene of great visuals it all becomes a bit stale and instead of being amazed it becomes routine. Nothing feels compelling anymore. Just more of the same which begins to make the film feel dull in some parts.

The film feels too long though to tell you the truth I couldn’t say where to cut anything out. As for the most part each scene seems essential to the film.

While I am not a big fan of 3D. Here it does enhance the film usually in the scenes that it requires like a ship sinking and battling the waves. Luckily there aren’t many tricks with the 3d that sometimes cheapen the experience to make it feel more like a Amusement park ride which works as entertainment and creates a memory, but can cheapen the overall artistic merit of the film, If it chooses to have any. I have to admit with the effect I even jumped in my scene once or twice.

The film starts off with the end. Which is how it is in the book unfortunately this also informs us that he survives his ordeal. So now while watching the film we are being informed of how he survived. Though it would be interesting if they choose to take it out or not show it until the end of the film. Even without the present day narration. Though it is needed to guide the audience as to why we are seeing these early scenes and place some understanding of what is going on. This narration can be a crutch instead of just trusting your instincts for the visuals and no faith in the intelligence of the audience to a certain degree. I guess with the big budget it was seen as an appeal to all audiences to make it as mainstream as they can. No room for too much artistry. The modern day narration I will admit is fun, but distracting. As like with the film SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE it distracts us by acting like it is giving us biographical information. In reality all these scenes show him learning lessons that will help him on his journey.

I know it sounds like I didn’t like the film. I did actually I didn’t fall in love with it. It wasn’t magical for me as it seemed to be intended for. I think it is a film that deserves attention and is better than half of the films we are usually offered and uses the 3d technology to help embolden the story rather than use it as a trick. (also with 3d tickets costing more helps it’s box office to help make it’s money back) While I prefer this type of movie. It seems the only way to get them made is for them to be huge hits and 3d seems to become a means to an end.


One thing I did admire in the film is the allegory scene towards the end. When the lead is in the hospital after being rescued and is telling his tale to the insurance agents. He tells him the story that we have just watched and they are upset as they are unbelievable too full of fantasy. They want a more truthful one so he tells a depressing more violent and savage one that sound sore factual to them. Afterwards he asks why are you so willing to believe the depressing one that is dark and cold. Yet the happy magical one full of adventure, hope, imagination and overcoming the odds is something you can’t believe or seen a far fetched. Which is a perfect analogy for storytelling and life itself. Then the film cops out by telling you which one is real. Instead of leaving you in the audience to decide.


At one point M. Night Shyamalan was attached to write and direct this project. Since the rights were optioned in 2002 several directors have been attached to direct including M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso CuarĂ³n and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Andrew Garfield was considered for the role but Tobey Maguire was cast. Though he filmed his scenes, Maguire was later replaced by Rafe Spall because the director thought that Maguire was too famous for such a small role and it would have been distracting.

It’s good entertainment with a nice message. Definitely a crowd pleaser. The film will make you feel good with it’s tale of survival and leave you with good spirits. Its worth seeing in theaters.


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