MYSTIC MAGIC ON SCREEN.
Lee's directorial effort is overwhelming for another reason. You would struggle to find another film that so fluidly blends the techspecks with aesthetic finery. Life Of Pi is a visual spectacle, and the 3D here is the best you have ever seen ( yes, it's better than Avatar ). And yet the film doesn't become a mere glitzy package. It never loses focus from the deeper subtext of Yann Martel's Man Booker Prizewinning novel of the same name on which it is based.
On the 3D aspect in particular, Hollywood filmmakers out blindly exploiting the technology for quick bucks could pick a lesson or two from the way Lee uses it. The use of 3D in this film is not for the sake of gimmick. Lee actually taps the third dimension to explain what cannot be cinematically told. Sample a shot where the camera is placed below the water and looks right up past the boat, which is on the sea surface, into the faraway sky above. It's the creative genius of Lee at work, using the wonder of 3D to show you the infinite expanse in which the film's hero survives all alone on the boat. In a film based on a book that hardly had dialogues, 3D becomes a tool that awes, communicates and also underlines Martel's intrinsic philosophy.
That Lee's vision of the story will be splendid becomes obvious in the opening frames, as the camera laps up scenic Pondicherry.
Piscine Patel -- or Pi -- lives here with his parents ( Tabu and Adil Hussain).
The narrative crisply establishes Pi's love for and understanding of various animals because his father runs a zoo. The family falls on hard times, Pi's dad sells the zoo. The boy, now a teenager, sails off to Canada with his family. A shipwreck later Pi ( Suraj Sharma) finds himself on a 27- foot lifeboat with an injured zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a Royal Bengal tiger.
David Magee's material based on Martel's book uses light jest and restrained melodrama while unfolding Pi's early years, before the real adventure unfolds on the boat.
Tabu and Adil Hussain, despite brief footage, help create an authentic milieu, to give an idea of the years that shape Pi's courage and presence of mind.
The winner in the cast, though, is Pi himself. Lee is said to have picked debutant Suraj Sharma for the role from among 3,000 aspirants. It could have to do with surviving Lee's audition, but Suraj gets the mix of grit and misery just right for his role.
His act gives this film its beautiful emotional core.
Few films take pop cinema to an altogether different realm of imagination.
Ang Lee's new film just topped the list of all such contemporary efforts.
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