Life of Pi
Let me simply say that whenever I pass my favorite pictures of my beloved, deceased parents at home, I think of The Life of Pi. Somewhere, there was a loving Bengal tiger in my life.
Life of Pi is a cinematic philosophical painting of human existence. It is a metaphysical dissertation that dissects every human being’s continual fight to add some meaning to our short stay on this convoluted Earth. Death is faced head on, and is treated as nothing more than every human’s exit door.
It would be manifestly ridiculous to try to describe this film, as it simply has to be seen and adored. Besides, you already know that the film centers on a teenage boy trapped on a lifeboat with a wild Bengal tiger in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after his family has died when their ship sunk during a storm. How do you exist when your shipmate simply views you as a tasty meal?
What Director Ang Lee has done is to bring to the screen the functional equivalent of a post-graduate Philosophy of Man class. It is giving nothing away to reveal that the extraordinary adventures of the young man are told in hindsight when he reaches middle age and is living in Canada, and his revelations to a young interested author adds another moving dimension to the film itself.
In summary, we see the young star of our film, Pi Patel (Surai Sharma),growing up in India as his parents maintain an expanding zoo. Pi is a curious young lad, not to mention a serious student of life, which includes trying to determine if there is one religion that he should embrace. He is not afraid to experiment with being a Hindu, Muslim and then a Catholic, aggravating his well-meaning father by telling him that the advantage of Catholicism is finding a way to feel guilty before over 100 Buddhist Gods.
Suffering financial difficulties, his family is forced to move to Canada, planning on stopping in the Philippines on the way to sell their animals. This breaks Pi’s heart, not the least of which is because of his fascination with their untamed Bengal tiger. The young tiger is named Richard Parker, which was mistakenly done when there was ridiculous confusion occurring by giving him the name of the hunter who captured him.
As noted above, the ship sinks in a terrible storm, and the traumatized Pi ends up on a lifeboat with several animals, one being Richard Parker. Inevitably, one of the most difficult moments in the film is when the animals hear the call of the wild and turn on each other, forcing Pi to dangle off the bow of the boat to stay alive. These are crushing scenes, which are made all the more devastating as young Pi must come to grips with the fact that his family has died.
However, don’t avoid this film because you feel it is far too traumatic for your taste. What evolves is magical by any definition. Richard Parker and Pi are forced to deal with one another, and the cinematography of this film will grab your heart as it elevates your soul.
Quite frankly, the cinematographer, Claudio Miranda, is bound to be nominated for an Oscar, if not be the favorite to win the award. There are a series of overwhelming scenes involving the sea magically reflecting the presence of numerous jellyfish; a whale leaping into the air as it nearly misses Pi’s tiny boat; a moment where Pi and Richard Parker are nearly overwhelmed when they pass through a monumental school of flying, aggressive fish; and a terrific scene where the boat lands against a moving island that is completely occupied by millions of curious meerkats.
How does Pi ever recover? What happens to Richard Parker? Is his story completely accurate, and do you really care even if it isn’t? Why did I cry frequently through Pi’s enchanting crisis?
In the end, this film will undoubtedly leave you with honoring the talents of Mr. Lee. Think of his creation of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000); the bold drama about gay cowboys, Brokeback Mountain (2005); and the overlooked, behind the scenes story of the historical concert Taking Woodstock (2009). He is a genius, and I doubt that any other director remotely had the capability of breathing artistic life into Life of Pi.
This is a film that will inspire you with every turn. Good Lord, my wife, Monica Foster, loved it, and she sees one movie a year with me. I think the “Foster Effect” will spill over on you.