Friday, 4 January 2013

Film Review: "Life of Pi" (2012).




"Mr. Patel's is an astounding story, courage and endurance unparalleled in the history of ship-wrecks. Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger." This is the premise of this amazing movie, Life of Pi. This adventure drama film based on Yann Martel's 2001 novel of the same name. Directed by Ang Lee, the film is adapted by David Magee. The film is about a 16-year old boy named Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel is the son of a zookeeper who lives with his family in Pondicherry, India. The family decides to move to Canada, due to political turmoil, by traveling on a huge freighter, with some animals from the zoo. There he suffers a shipwreck in which his family dies, and is adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

The project had numerous directors and writers attached, and the Los Angeles Times credited Fox 2000 Pictures executive Elizabeth Gabler with keeping the project active. Gabler in February 2003 had acquired the project to adapt Life of Pi into a film. She hired the screenwriter Dean Georgaris to write an adapted screenplay. In the following October, Fox 2000 announced a partnership with M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense (1999)) to direct the film. Shyamalan was attracted to the novel particularly because its protagonist also comes from Pondicherry in India. The partners anticipated for Shyamalan to direct the film adaptation after completing The Village (2004). Shyamalan also replaced Georgaris as the screenwriter, writing a new screenplay for the film. Ultimately, Shyamalan chose to film Lady in the Water (2006) instead, and Fox 2000 Pictures decided to find another director. In March 2005, they entered talks with Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2003)) to become the director. Cuarón decided to direct Children of Men (2007) instead, and in October 2005, Fox 2000 Pictures hired Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amiele (2001)) to direct the film. Jeunet began writing the adapted screenplay with Guillaume Laurant, and filming was scheduled to begin in mid-2006, partially in India. Jeunet eventually left the project, and in February 2009, Fox 2000 Pictures hired Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001)) to direct the film. In May 2010, Lee and the producer Gil Netter proposed a reported budget of $70 million, at which the studio balked, placing the project's development on hold for a short time. David Magee was hired to write the screenplay, as Lee began to spend several months looking for someone to cast as Pi. After 3,000 men auditioned for the film's lead, in October 2010 Lee chose to cast Suraj Sharma, a 17-year-old student and an acting newcomer. Upon receiving the role, Sharma underwent extensive training in ocean survival, as well as in yoga and meditation practices to prepare for the part. Two months after Sharma was cast, it was announced that Irrfan Khan would play the adult Pi. Principal photography for the film began on January 18, 2011 in Pondicherry, India until January 31 and moved to other parts of India, as well as Taiwan. The crew filmed in Taiwan for five and a half months in Taipei Zoo, an airport in Taichung, and Kenting National Park, located in Pingtung County where Lee was born. Over there, the ocean scenes of the film were shot at a giant wave tank built by the crew in an abandoned airport. The tank is known as the world’s largest self-generating wave tank, with a capacity of 1.7 million gallons. After photography was completed in Taiwan, production moved back to India and concluded in Montreal, Canada.

The film stars Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Gérard Depardieu, Tabu, and Adil Hussain. The performances were all perfect. But I would to praise the two characters who portrayed Pi; Suraj Sharma as Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, age 16 and Irrfan Khan as adult Pi. Both of them together brought 'a tour de force' peformances as they were able to accomplish what any actor wants and longs to accomplish - realism of the human condition, with going over-the-top. And they have accomplish that goal beautifully and masterfully (totally Oscar-worthy performances). For the film's animalistic star, Richard Parker, the element of realism also made his performance in the film terrifying and yet mesmerizing. But not the kind of realism found in the real world, the kind you would find only in the computer. With the power of CGI. The lead visual effects company for Life of Pi is Rhythm & Hues Studios ((R&H) The Chronicles of Narnia Series (2005-10) which has its corporate headquarters in El Segundo, California. 3D effects for the film were created by a team of artists from all of the R&H divisions, including locations in Mumbai and Hyderabad (India), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Vancouver (Canada), and Kaohsiung (Taiwan). Artist Abdul Rahman in the Malaysian branch underscored the global nature of the effects process, saying that "the special thing about Life Of Pi is that it was the first time we did something called remote rendering, where we engaged our cloud infrastructure in Taiwan called CAVE (Cloud Animation and Visual Effects)." The R&H Visual Effects Supervisor Bill Westenhofer said that discussions of the project began with Ang Lee in August 2009. hythm & Hues spent a year on research and development, "building upon its already vast knowledge of CG animation" to develop the tiger. Life of Pi can be seen as the film Rhythm & Hues has been building up to all these years, by taking things they learned from each production from Cats & Dogs (2001) to Yogi Bear (2009), integrating their animals in different situations and environments, pushing them to do more, and understanding how all of this can succeed both visually and dramatically.

Ang Lee's Life of Pi is an beautiful, tense adventure survival drama that's masterfully directed and visually stunning. The film restores a sense of wonder, terror and possibility to the big screen that should inspire awe among audiences and critics alike.

Simon says Life of Pi receives:


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