Life Of Pi – Ang Lee – 2012



Here’s the deal. A story once told already exists. You can’t take it back. There are no takebacks in storytelling. My absolute favorite film writer hated Life Of Pi because he feels that the perception shift at the end of the tale undermines the story, except, you can’t take it back. I already saw the story and just because you said something else at the end doesn’t mean I didn’t hear the story. And what a story it is!

I don’t really want to get into all of the possible interpretations, and religious implications of Life Of Pi, because I think that stuff is very specific depending on where you approach the material.  Pi is a Hindu-Christian-Muslim, but his parents are decidedly secular. Yet this very intelligent soul finds meaning in each of these philosophies, they are his comic books, his mysteries, his soulful touch with the infinite.

However, by fate, this boy becomes shipwrecked, in a dingy, with a tiger.

I want to talk for a moment about the tiger. Never once did I view it as a special effect, and very rarely did the tiger behave in such a way that I thought it did not want to eat Pi, ASAP. So, the tiger is freaky scary. The effects wizards in this film not only bring the tiger to life but the sea itself. The sea is much, much more terrifying than the tiger and the scenes of storms at sea had me clenched and worried.

This is not a problem with the film, but a measure of its’ effectiveness. I felt punched around and beaten up with this film. It really was quite tiresome, but isn’t that the point? For the audience to vicariously have an adventure? Lee gives us one hell of a ride in this film, with tone shifts from comedic, to harrowing to some of the most downright psychedelic scenes ever filmed.

The film is absolutely beautiful and every image is burned into your cortex. I dreamed about the damn thing for two nights after I saw it, and certain images continue to drift through my mind. The second storm for example was a moment not dissimilar to Liam Neeson’s plea to the Almighty in The Grey. These existential man vs. nature films never seem popular, but dang, I love ‘em. That we get two of these bad boys in the same year is quite special. I may like The Grey a bit more for story, but in terms of an experiential film, Life Of Pi has it, (and everything else), beat.

Another image I can’t shake is the whale breaching in the luminescent water. While this sequence is beautiful and Pi is as awed by it as the viewer, as a result of that shit, he looses all his rations on his little lifejacket island. It’s simultaneously majestic and tragic. It’s Ang Lee giving us that old one-two punch, underlining an overwhelming beauty with which he sees the world, with a tragic narrative turn. It’s one of Lee’s signatures, and the film world is a better place for it.

I also constantly return to that damn dream sequence. It’s so trippy and psychedelic. There’s one part that begins with a squid and ends up being a cipher to the film. As this one creature explodes into many, we are visually given a glimpse into the truth about Pi and his various identities. From one mind many creatures exist. This not only reflects the duplicity present in Pi’s story about the animals, but also re-enforces a type of monotheistic conclusion. Despite the multitude of creatures spawned, they all came from the one, the narrative reconciliation of multiple religions visualized.

Can you tell I liked the film? See it in 3D. Take your wives, take your children, take your husbands too. 


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