Captivating: Life of Pi (2012)

Posted: December 12, 2012 in Joe Giambrone
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by Joe Giambrone

Finally caught the 3D and immersive Life of Pi.  Would that I could have caught the 2D showing, as I hate 3D, but Kronos tends to lean toward annoying me.  The “Real 3D” system is both obtrusive and image-degrading, as many have commented on.  What they usually don’t mention is that the audience is forced to view, through cheap 10 cent plastic, used lenses, an image captured on $30,000 state of the art glass optics.  Way to fuck up the delivery chain.

Be that as it may, I can’t fault Ang Lee who turned in a spectacular, deeply layered epic masterpiece, and one of the best films of 2012.  Lee is well known for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as well as Hulk, which I avoided.  His has been a daring career of unconventional stories such as Lust, Caution, Taking Woodstock, The Ice Storm, and the completely unexpected Brokeback Mountain.

In Life of Pi we are caught up in the life of an Indian boy named Pi Patel who chose his own first name as a way of getting his classmates to stop calling him “Pisser.”  Pi comes upon the various religions of the world and decides to follow them all in a non-discriminatory fashion.  His is a quest to find God, one way or another.  His shipwreck story is presented to an author, so that it can become a book, although its veracity is in question.

Pi claims to have been shipwrecked in the Pacific on a lifeboat with several zoo animals.  His family had been transporting the animals across the ocean to sell in Canada.  The trip is harrowing, and his entire family is lost with the sinking of the cargo ship.  Pi is stranded with no hope for a rescue operation, set adrift in the middle of the world’s largest ocean.

In this context Pi truly faces both the prospect of meeting God as well as meeting his own true nature.  This is where the film excels and captivates, essentially transforming a simple story of a boy bobbing around on a lifeboat into a gripping, tense masterpiece that will be quite unforgettable and live on.

Any film which delves into the primal, base nature of humanity could be considered political.  Where morality breaks down, we devolve.  Extreme stress produces a stripping away of social constructs, the ideas which normally form our behavioral rules and mores.  How Pi handles this devolution and how he chooses to express these experiences are haunting, chilling, a sneak attack on one’s mental defenses.

The imagery of the film and its seamless, animated transitions from scene to scene flow like a dream.  Such remarkable cinematography, often the backgrounds are replaced with stunningly more beautiful glimpses of nature and living creatures who play their parts as in a choreographed ballet of life.

As one of our commenters, Sunni Evans said:

“The best movie I have ever seen! I’ll be thinking about the symbolism for years!”

I highly recommend Life of Pi and hope people will think about the concepts of the film for a long time afterward.


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