Tuesday, February 05, 2013

"Life of Pi" (2012) - Movie Review

It was quite difficult to escape my brother not mentioning about the book “Life of Pi” through my brother. It is ironical that this review follows my staunch stand against the separation of books and movies. In all fairness, this is only to point out the familiarity and the exposure of this reviewer to this material. “Life of Pi” directed by Ang Lee is a crowd pleasing film which like any crowd pleaser relies on its audience to forgive the minor flaws. For me those flaws bring this otherwise spellbinding film into well, movie with flaws.

“Life of Pi” is the kind of one liner that does not take much to invite a person into the movie theater. It narrates the great survival story of  a boy named Piscine Molitor Patel a.k.a Pi as he is trapped in a lifeboat with a tiger. This narration is provided by Irrfan Khan as the adult Pi to a curious writer. It truly is an intriguing story as it begins the Once upon a time... following it up rightfully with the details of profound curiosity than an obligatory screen write. I was pleasantly surprised as they did not hurry into the crux of the film. It begins with how his name brought nothing but ridicule and how he manages to sway away that successfully.

“Life of Pi” exemplifies the effectiveness of storytelling on how to make a one line interesting idea into an interesting film. Piscine curiously approaches belief and god in various forms through various religion with an openness that is neither naive or ignorant. Especially growing in a region like Tamil Nadu where questioning god or even furthering curiosity in any other religion besides the advice of their parents is new. In this environment is his father (Adil Hussain) who we initially suspect to be the run of the mill strict parent. Here though it is different. Despite his short screen presence he is an impressive character who comes off as the right combination of an arrogant atheist and pragmatic father. He is bemused by his son’s adoption of several religions but lets him be with snide remarks to prompt questions. He is appreciative of the nature that he has surrounded with through the Zoo he manages but knows his limits which he gruesomely teaches to Pi. Pi’s mom played by Tabu offers the right amount of sentimentality that requires the balance Pi needs in this family of an atheist dad and a religious mother.

Of course the success of “Life of Pi” relies heavily on the pristine visual effects that resides on the line of fantasy, reality and cartoonish. The stillness of ocean is one thing that resonates throughout the film. As Suraj Shara as Pi begins to wrestle this ferocious tiger Richard Parker, we are exposed as him on the possibility of the slightest attack of those huge paws to succumb in wounds and starvation. The CGI that was used in “Hugo” by Martin Scorsese reminds how well the master used it as a character. Ang Lee could not go on that context but he employs it as the right tool as that of a brilliant cinematography. That aids this film into the surreal yet realistic look.

Pi and his only companion Richard Parker begin to co-exist. There is a brilliant scene wherein Pi successfully evades Richard Parker from the life boat and then lets him realize how inter dependent they are. The monstrous being begins to acknowledge the fact. The animal and survival instinct kicks in both Pi and more so in Richard Parker. The part “Life of Pi” suffers is its constant meandering on trying to reach for the philosophical question on the existence, belief and trust in higher power. The way it is contrived in the end to choose for an answer weighs down a story that relies solely on the human endurance.

This reviewer despite his stand believes that a film that handles even the complete opposite of someone’s belief and perspective with a wiseness and natural inclination of the story loves it. Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” comes to mind where the central characters ability to see the other side of life brings him nothing but pain and trouble yet that becomes the connecting factor in the end. Ang Lee could have done this without any kind of obligation to answer or even deal with this in the end. It is a story about how you can find a firm and strong emotional bond with some being that is there to kill you in desperate situation. It does not require a physical balance to measure the weight of that emotion into something invisible or even for that fact logical. What begins to build up as a great film maintains the incredible nature of its presentation to its hold but unfurls it when it comes to conclude it. The best ending for these films are the open ended poetry it leaves incomplete. Ang Lee’s could have been one such.

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