When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it. Additional note: I have finally (!!!) finished working my way through the movies that are relevant to this weekend’s Academy Awards (nominated in one of the six major categories). LIFE OF PI was the last movie to see.
5 Things You Need to Know About…
LIFE OF PI
1) Ang Lee (nominated for Best Director) is a master director of both the visual scope (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and of the personal voice (Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm). Life of Pi fits well into this construct as a visual masterwork that is created as a beautiful fusion of perspective, light, and color. Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is gorgeous to view and a credit to his vision.
2) Along those lines, Ang Lee’s use of CGI is effortless and without customary “pulling you out of the moment” detection distraction (see movies made by George Lucas over the last 16 years). The majority of the movie takes place in the middle of the ocean focusing on the relationship between Pi and Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger. Richard Parker’s shots in the movie are 86% CGI, but while viewing, you are largely unaware and connect to their burgeoning symbiotic bond as completely real.
3) Based on conversations I have had with passionate readers of the book (I have unfortunately not read the book), something is left on the table in the movie version of Life of Pi. It is an incredibly difficult movie to make (it requires some near impossible shots) and Ang Lee has certainly succeeded in so much of his execution, yet something feels unfinished, as if there was an additional layer of meaning that was not given due attention. It is more “let’s try to make a movie version of Life of Pi” than “let’s try to make Life of Pi.” It is a partial version, but somehow (and admittedly ambiguously) less than the real thing.
4) At one point, M. Night Shyamalan (the best metaphor for his career: a free fall) was attached to write and direct this project. Fortunately, by the time Life of Pi was made, he was unattached. One can only imagine where he would have positioned his “once a movie” cameo. I fear he may have portrayed one of the zoo animals or a Hindu god.
5) Life of Pi, a movie about a young man’s epic journey of survival across the Pacific Ocean accompanied by a Bengal tiger and his faith, is visually stunning and captivating, yet it rarely dives as deep below the surface as we want it to to fully explore its’ biggest ideas. We are watching Pi’s story as a viewer from the outside in, but rarely from the inside out, and the result is often breathtaking, but not as profound or as life-affirming as the source material seems to have the potential to suggest.