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Madrid City in English
Wednesday 23rd of January 2019
6th of December 2012 by editor 6th of December 2012
Life of Pi

Clementyne Chambers reviews Ang Lee's latest movie

A boy, a shipwreck, a tiger and a boat—sound familiar? Of course they do—they’re the basis for Life of Pi by Yann Martel, one of the literary sensations of the decade. The cinematic adaptation has now been realised by Ang Lee, seemingly the “go to” guy for any “impossible to make” film.

            Young Pi Patel’s (Suraj Sharma) fantastic yet tragic life trajectory starts in India. Ang Lee takes to the luscious Indian landscape like a fish to water—picture lots of floating lotus flowers, candles and translucent pools—which looks remarkable, especially in 3D, but tends to struggle in terms of action. As the adult Pi, played by the fantastic Irrfan Kahn, reflects on his convoluted relationship with religion, packed with lots of philosophical soundbites like, “if faith is a house with many rooms, doubt resides on every door”, the effect may perhaps take you back to the Religious Education classes of your youth.

            Thankfully, when the need to survive at sea arises, you practically feel that you are with Pi in his wooden lifeboat, jerking around the water, in the company of a temperamental tiger by the name of Richard Parker. The camera lingers on his fur, his chocolaty, soulful eyes and majestic movements as if to say “yes, a lot of our budget has been spent on CGI.” In that case, it was money well spent—children and adults will be amazed at Richard Parker’s “tigerness”. The friendship between Pi and tiger is played out beautifully, and like Pi, you are filled with a desire to cuddle the animal and prod him with a stick at the same time. Whether they are bobbing along the sea or growling at one another, Lee refuses to disconnect Richard Parker from his big-cat carnivore roots.

            Suraj Sharma, a complete unknown plucked fresh from a herd of 3,000 actors, is never fully able to stand up against the ferocious beast. At his best, he can display a plausible amount of grief and frustration at being adrift at sea, but at poorer moments he can be a bumbling mess, never quite bringing the script to life or making it truly believable. “We are dying Richard Parker,” he weeps to the tiger, who barely lifts his head in acknowledgment. Some long, dry, drawn-out monologues are the 2D element of the film.

            The whole, for me, proves warming but not too touching. I liked Life of Pi and can see it scooping up lots of awards for its visuals, yet at its finish it was hard to believe in it. But if Pi’s father is right to say “if you believe in everything you end up not believing anything at all”, then maybe Ang Lee intended that to be the case all along.

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