An Early Review Of LIFE OF PI Sails In!!
The Kidd here...
I've been curious to lay my eyes on Ang Lee's adaptation of LIFE OF PI if for no other reason than the visuals I've seen so far, as this film definitely looks like a sight to behold. However, is there enough substance to carry the film through from what I've been told is an incredibly difficult book to realize for the screen.
So how does it translate?
Ace Rimmer took in the film at the AFI Film Festival and sent in his take. Have at it, Ace...
Hey, Kidd... Ace Rimmer here…
I just returned from the gala screening of LIFE OF PI (in 3D) at the AFI Film Festival, which kicked off Thursday with HITCHCOCK and will continue with LINCOLN, HOLY MOTORS and the Palme d'Or winning AMOUR among others.
The screening was opened by a virtual Ang Lee, who popped out of the screen in 3D and looked pretty damn exhausted. Apparently he finished it two weeks ago and said this was the hardest film he'd ever made. Then he mentioned it was all about faith. Nuf' said.
Went into PI more curious than excited. The novel is a really solid piece of fiction, mixing intense survival story with thoughtful meditations on God and capping the whole thing off with a semi ambiguous, rug pulling twist. In fact it's the ending that I remember best from the book. It turns a memorable ride into a very clever, thought-provoking journey. If any of this sounds boring to you, look away now.
The trailers left me a little uninterested. Visually stunning of course, but the overwhelming, uplifting score and title cards declaring WHEN ALL YOU'VE EVER KNOWN IS LOST and FIND YOUR COURAGE didn't exactly peak my interest or flatter the complex source material. It seemed Ang Lee had sidestepped the unfilmable challenges of the narrative and decided to distract audiences with a smorgasbord of kaleidoscopic colors, effects and action.
Well, as it turns out, LIFE OF PI has all that and much more. In fact, I'd say this is Ang Lee's TREE OF LIFE. Something deeply meaningful he's been building towards his whole career. With a bit of Ang Lee's GRIZZLY MAN and Ang Lee's CLOUD ATLAS to boot. Still with me?
What he's done here is taken the novel's main ideas, nature, nurture and the search for God and delivered it with intensely personal panache and breathtaking visual sequences. As with those other projects, one feels the auteur's hand here as clearly as you feel it with Malick, Herzog or the Wachowski's and it is both very honest and very demanding. As with those films, some may be rubbed the wrong way here. LIFE OF PI will not be embraced by everyone. It may not be a journey all will be compelled to take again. But I urge you to take it once on the biggest, brightest screen possible.
LIFE OF PI is stunning. I don't use the term lightly either. There are things done here visually that left me gasping and my jaw wide open. More so than CLOUD ATLAS or even AVATAR. In fact, I'd argue that Ang Lee manages to fully immerse you Planet Earth style in this extraordinary world in a way James Cameron promised but failed to deliver satisfactorily with his mega-blockbuster. To see such a methodical, visual director firing on all cylinder's is an absolute joy and it would be impossible to recall more than a fraction of the exquisite, intricate details here.
Things will stick out for everyone though. For me, I have never seen the sea represented quite so magnificently as it is here. We go from terrifying, storm churning tsunami's to queasy waves, to a sun drenched, still-water paradise to astonishing, luminous, night-time underwater vistas. And much more. Throw in sharks, flying fish, a whale, zebra, hyena, meerkat and countless other creatures of all shapes and sizes, elegantly realized, and you'll wonder where Cameron can possibly go next with AVATAR 2. The ball is definitely in his court. That goes for the 3D as well. If you're a champion of the format, this is right up there. If not, you owe it to yourself to see what a brilliant craftsman is able to do with the canvas. I still found the picture too dim and look forward to experiencing the bright colors in 2D. But you can't argue with craft.
To my relief, Lee was able to inject the imagery with the deep symbolism they need to really sing. The opening act of PI shows a young Pi (the excellent Suraj Sharma) getting involved with multiple religions and butting heads with his family. Questions are raised and statements made that address some pretty big philosophical topics and it is here that the audience will either perk up or shut down. If they do let themselves be engaged however, viewers will find the spectacular journey that follows to be far more meaningful and the head spinning coda, far more satisfying. Or as so many did with TREE OF LIFE, they might find the ambiguous, explicit symbols a bafflement and the earnest delivery a bore.
In GRIZZLY MAN, Timothy Treadwell looked at wild bears and found love and meaning, while Herzog mused that all he saw was "the chaotic indifference of nature.” In LIFE OF PI, Ang Lee gives us a ferocious Bengal tiger and two possible outcomes. In it's eyes we either see the friendly, soulful proof of God's existence, or merely a confused reflection of ourselves.
There were times during LIFE OF PI that I found myself drifting out of the film and marveling at the spectacle from a distance. Lee performs an amazing balancing act with all the elements at his disposal but at times the philosophy felt a little unbalanced and the ending didn’t completely stick the landing. It's more about the journey than the destination here but it’s almost all captivating. The framing story contains what were in my opinion the films strongest and weakest performances (by Irrfan Khan and Rafe Spall respectively) and sometimes feels a bit dry. Their last scene together is their best though. The relationship between Pi and the tiger is something better experienced than described here. It is the centerpiece of the film and a massive accomplishment on both a technical and emotional level.
LIFE OF PI is not a film I will watch many times over. Not because it is a failure, but like a few other survival stories, the viewing itself can feel like a bit of an endurance. In the novel, staying on a lifeboat for such a huge chunk of the story made for compelling reading but in the film, you do feel Ang Lee pulling somersaults to compensate for the one location. Beautiful somersaults.
I don't think this will have a chance at the Academy Awards, with an entirely international cast and scenes of animal on animal violence (which will definitely turn off some viewers). Some will hail it a masterpiece, others will raise eyebrows and scoff at the philosophy while admiring the visuals and astonishing animal realizations. I'll admit, the rich visuals will stay with me longer than the thoughtful story, which is saying a lot.
LIFE OF PI is a film you will want to own because you want to show it to others. You will screen it for the more open minded, opinionated of your friends to see what they think it all means, knowing that at the very least they will applaud you on your visual taste. Or you’ll show them TREE OF LIFE.
Looks pretty positive to me. We'll see if Ang Lee's latest holds up for the rest of us soon enough, with LIFE OF PI opening in theatres on November 21.
"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"
Follow me on Twitter.
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
+ Expand All
Nov. 7, 2012, 12:40 p.m. CST
Nov. 7, 2012, 12:46 p.m. CST
by David Hinson
This review needs 8 hours of direct sunlight a day.
Nov. 7, 2012, 12:50 p.m. CST
Last year we gave you owl cock fighting. This year, Tiger vs. Hyena Bum Fights!
Nov. 7, 2012, 12:52 p.m. CST
always makes me think of that wonderful '70's novel The Adolescence of P1. One of my favorites growing up. Just sayin'
Nov. 7, 2012, 12:53 p.m. CST
by Darth Thoth
thanks. can't wait.
Nov. 7, 2012, 12:53 p.m. CST
translation: it will be lauded by critics but bomb at the box office
Nov. 7, 2012, 12:55 p.m. CST
This review lost me at 'Nuf' said' If you aint' Stan Lee, don't be sayin' Nuf' said! Got it, True Believer? Just sayin'
Nov. 7, 2012, 12:56 p.m. CST
"open minded, opinionated of your friends" is code for box office flop
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:01 p.m. CST
I don't think this is a plant... it's not, well, very convincing. Still, I'll be suckered in by the eye candy at least once.
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:02 p.m. CST
*the ending didn’t completely stick the landing* Neither did the ending of the book. Kidd, you dont mention the CG Tiger which is obviously a pretty big part of the film - is it a cartoon Aslan companion or do you 100% believe it as a physical entity in the raft with Pi?
Oh, just saw this was a review by Ace Rimmer not Kidd - Rimmer are you talkbacking? Let us know about the Tiger!
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:04 p.m. CST
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:13 p.m. CST
Pretentious, pretty looking SHIT. No thanks.
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:19 p.m. CST
It's yet another pained religious allegory that obfuscates reality with all kinds of pointless and meaningless circular symbolism. Pi is the tiger is God is Pi. Ugh. Forget it. Ever notice how whenever anyone tries to write a book about the importance of religion, the so-called strength of the book can only increase by divesting it of ANY framework of reality? The more obscure and interconnected the book's mythology becomes, the more circular the reasoning, the more the author can claim to be profound. If it's not about real life, it's not profound. Don't see CLOUD ATLAS.
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:21 p.m. CST
The outright rage of audiences going in expecting a movie about a guy in a boat and a tiger who get the awful twist ending where it turns out there actually ARE no animals and it's him hallucinating, that is going to be FUN to hear people leaving the theater going What the Hell was that?
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:22 p.m. CST
Great review but with reservations. Bigging up the eyecandy but mentioning the flaws.. Plants put flaws at the end of the `review` in a footnote kind of way. Good review but will reserve judgement until I read a couple more.
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:23 p.m. CST
international cast is a problem getting an Oscar nom?? Has no one watched Slumdog Millionaire??
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:28 p.m. CST
Hollywood Reporter said much the same: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/life-pi-review-ang-lee-374992 Very anxious to see this in 3D...the *flying fish* scene in front PROMETHEUS was amazing.
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:36 p.m. CST
Call me a typical american, I guess, but watching an indian kid in a boat with a tiger for 2.5 hours sounds not merely like a boring movie but like a clumsy satire of a concept for a boring movie. Sounds like one of those concept films, like the bro dude who got stuck in a crevasse for 8 days or whatever. Wouldn't want to experience it and also would not want to see a movie about it. Would make a good 4-minute sequence in the next Tintin flick. I like Ang Lee but this does not sound entertaining.
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:37 p.m. CST
I know we can't use quotes in TB since I pioneered using header styles in TBs
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:38 p.m. CST
by angry kitty
They aren't doing the film any favors.
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:39 p.m. CST
it's my itchy pink butthole!
Nov. 7, 2012, 1:39 p.m. CST
Nov. 7, 2012, 2:02 p.m. CST
Did you actually read the book?
Nov. 7, 2012, 2:59 p.m. CST
Did anybody else hate that movie besides me? I really enjoyed Life if Pi the book and I'm looking forward to the movie.
Nov. 7, 2012, 3:10 p.m. CST
This thing looks like nothing less than pure manipulation of emotions. It looks like nothing substantive but feels goodism. I won;t watch this thing. This sort of airy garbage never interests me.
Nov. 7, 2012, 4:33 p.m. CST
by Scott Sullivan
I think one got away and wrote this review...
Nov. 7, 2012, 4:34 p.m. CST
by BD Mahony
~ Ace Rimmer
Nov. 7, 2012, 4:38 p.m. CST
Nov. 7, 2012, 4:39 p.m. CST
There are some historical events you can boil down to an animal allegory (Animal Farm) or even print on a t-shirt. The Holocaust is not one of them.
Nov. 7, 2012, 4:43 p.m. CST
Ace Rimmer, I can take or leave
Nov. 7, 2012, 5:19 p.m. CST
If you've ever had an emotional response to a film, guess what – you were manipulated to feel that way. It's just that the best films don't make you feel like you've been manipulated.
Nov. 7, 2012, 5:29 p.m. CST
Nov. 7, 2012, 5:30 p.m. CST
by Raptor Jesus
If so, I'm not going.
Nov. 7, 2012, 6:04 p.m. CST
by Johnny Wrong
...I knew there'd be asswads accusing this well-balanced review of being a plant. Fucking incredible the amount of jealousy and hatred built up inside some of you basement-dwelling, knuckle-scraping fucktards.
Nov. 7, 2012, 6:28 p.m. CST
Some things are just difficult to get over.
Nov. 7, 2012, 6:29 p.m. CST
by Jon Snow
where the cowboys put there pee pee's in each others butts?
Nov. 7, 2012, 7:30 p.m. CST
Nov. 7, 2012, 7:34 p.m. CST
How does a movie's box office reflect how good it is? Plenty of bad movies make money. If something looks good or interesting I will watch it and then make up my mind. To decide a movie is going to suck based on how likely it is to make money, is just plain stupid. If I really like a movie after watching it, then I will root for it to make money so that those involved are able to keep making good movies.
Nov. 7, 2012, 7:40 p.m. CST
Aren't those two terms contradictory?
Nov. 7, 2012, 7:57 p.m. CST
Nov. 7, 2012, 8:08 p.m. CST
Also, Hulk wasn't perfect, but it does things no other comic film has attempted. Is it too serious? Too character driven? Too unfaithful? Sure. It's also beautiful. And, when the action does kick in, it's amazing, and more "Incredible Hulk" than anything else, including the Avengers. The jumping, size shifting, tank hurling Hulk of Ang Lee's creation still get's my nod. I would love a Star Wars film that had the epic scale and beauty that Ang Lee brings to his work.
Nov. 7, 2012, 10:13 p.m. CST
Have the People Complaining about the book actually read it or just looked up some reviews on Amazon and Wikipedia?
by some dude
Because from the comments it seems like no one has anything but an ignorant childs understanding of the events of the book. I loved it and Im not religious what so ever and I still thought the book had some interesting ideas about religion and how we cope with the harsh world around us.
Nov. 7, 2012, 10:34 p.m. CST
by Hardboiled Wonderland
Who's making the new Star Wars movie starring Chow Yun Fat.
Nov. 7, 2012, 10:36 p.m. CST
by Hardboiled Wonderland
... they won't be at the cinema when I see Life Of Pi. Which will be a fucking godsend, I can watch it in peace.
Nov. 7, 2012, 10:40 p.m. CST
by Hardboiled Wonderland
The Star Wars talkback has dulled my mind.
Nov. 7, 2012, 11:02 p.m. CST
by ass clown
If ever there were a planty mcplanterson son of a bitch, it is this man with his money infused review of studio garble bull shit. DEATH TO PLANTS!!!!!
Nov. 7, 2012, 11:18 p.m. CST
What about Maus? I guess that's different...haven't read YM's follow up myself.
Nov. 8, 2012, 7:22 a.m. CST
love Red Dwarf
Nov. 8, 2012, 8:12 a.m. CST
The twist ending was a weak spot.
Nov. 8, 2012, 9:07 a.m. CST
SPOILERS ----------------------------------------------------- He escapes into the Mexican wild, never to be heard from again. Yeah, Mexican.
Nov. 8, 2012, 9:33 a.m. CST
No, I won't either. It's actually pretty good, doesn't exactly come out of left field but is at least meaningful.
Nov. 8, 2012, 10:49 a.m. CST
Shudder......watch it and you'll see ..
- ‘He’s Worse Than Anybody!!’ Sunday Brings HBO’s Season Finale Of TRUE DETECTIVE!! -- 180 total posts 44 posts
- Darker ZORRO Reboot Finds its Writer! -- 307 total posts 6 posts
- ‘We Got Six Bullets!!’ Sunday Brings WALKING DEAD 4.13!! -- 82 total posts 4 posts
- Spring Forward With Lauren Cohen & Sonequa Martin-Green On TALKING DEAD!! Data Brokers On 60 MINUTES!! The Premieres Of Fox’s COSMOS, Lohan’s LINDSAY & Carolla’s CATCH A CONTRATOR!! The Returns Of BURGERS, SIMPSONS, GUY, ONCE & REVENGE!! New GIRLS, ISLAND, AMAZING, SHAMELESS, FIANCE, WIVES, AX!! KARDASHIANS & LOOKING Finales!! Herc’s Sunday TV Talkback!! -- 6 total posts 3 posts
- SXSW 2014: Nordling Reviews BOYHOOD! -- 7 total posts 2 posts
- Lena Dunham Hosts SNL!! Sagan COSMOS Marathon On NGC!! New UNIVERSE, OUTRAGEOUS ACTS OF SCIENCE & BLACK SAILS!! SWAMP PAWN, RAISING WHITLEY, SCORNED, COPS & CRAZY HEARTS Finales!! Hallmark’s A RING BY SPRING!! Lifetime’s A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL!! Herc’s Saturday TV Talkback!! -- 34 total posts 2 posts
- Hercules Says RESURRECTION Is Easily The Best Broadcast Pilot Of The 2013-14 Season And ABC’s Best Pilot In Years!! -- 40 total posts 2 posts
- A newly remastered 4K print of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE is coming just in time for its 40th anniversary!! -- 70 total posts 1 post
- Merrick Stands Up In The Milky Way To Be Pummeled By The Greatness Of COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY!! -- 43 total posts 1 post
- Harry shares Day 1 of SXSW which stars Jon Favreau's utterly delicious CHEF!!! -- 216 total posts 1 post