Friday, November 30, 2012

Movie with Abe: Life of Pi

Life of Pi
Directed by Ang Lee
Released November 16, 2012

Ang Lee has a flair for the visual. Foreign-language feats “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Lust, Caution” are both mesmerizingly beautiful portraits of human conflict, and his latest feature is no exception. Adapting a popular book, Lee takes material meant for a gorgeous cinematic treatment and creates a powerful, intimate look at one man’s fight for survival after being marooned on a lifeboat with a tiger. The story demands some suspension of disbelief, but the way that the events are told and seen on screen, they don’t seem unnatural, and the experience of watching the film is fully captivating.

Like many biographical stories about the significant events in one protagonist’s life, “Life of Pi” is framed by present-day narration by an adult Pi as he recounts his unique tale to a visiting Canadian writer. Whenever the film flashes back to the present from its intoxicating scenes set during Pi’s youth, it underlines the intensity of the material and the way in which it fully envelops its audience. Even before Pi sits out, alone with his new friend, in the middle of the ocean, the film offers a marvelous and visually wonderful account of how he got his name, shortened from the French word for swimming pool, purposely mispronounced “pissing” by cruel classmates.

The horrific storm at sea that sends Pi off on his adventure is the film’s signature extended scene, shot with care and delicacy. After losing his family to the ocean, Pi’s story becomes a solitary one with unusual companionship, yet the film never drags or loses focus. Some creative cinematography that isolates Pi’s small boat in a vast reflective ocean helps to underscore the magnificence of his situation, but the story drives the film rather than the potential for an overemphasis on scenery at the expense of plot.

Suraj Sharma, energetic and insatiable, performs well in the lead role, fulfilling the image of a boy with a hunger for the amazement to be found in the world and offering a compelling protagonist for whom to root in his battle with nature. Irrfan Khan, previously seen in such films as “A Mighty Heart” and “The Namesake,” effortlessly matches Sharma’s youthful enthusiasm with a nostalgic, contemplative outlook as the adult Pi, recalling his experiences to his enthralled visitor. “Life of Pi” is an affirming, endearing film that tells a glorious story with the same intoxicating sense of style and wonder exhibited by its protagonist.


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