You can be flooded with admiration by the superb achievement of Life of Pi, helmed by that most versatile of our filmmakers, Ang Lee, who has translated an allegedly unfilmable eccentric novel into one of the most beautiful and–dare I say it?–spiritual movies in years. And years. (Its 3-D version is technically the best ever made, not so incidentally.)
The spine of the story? Pi Patel, the 12-year-old son of an Indian zoo owner, survives a terrible shipwreck and is set adrift mid-ocean with some animal companions, most notably a full-grown Bengal tiger. What happens during the sea journey you have never seen before in a movie–this is a story about a spiritual journey as well as a physical one.
“The Hindu deities were like superheroes to me,” Pi tells a writer who wants to make a novel about his journey. And so we learn that this precocious young man embraced all religions by the time he is on the sea-journey interrupted by the shipwreck. And Pi will need all his Gods to help him when he is set adrift.
How do Pi–and the untamed tiger named Richard Parker–manage to survive, to find water and food? You won’t find out here, nor any further synopsis, either. Let the surprises remain surprises. This is a tale within a story, and you will believe whichever genre your mind can accept.
Life of Pi uses the best computer-generated imagery thus far in a film, and its live cinematography could not be better. Once you have seen this film, you might understand why five other directors tried to develop the story into a film–and gave up. Not so with Ang Lee, who must have loved doing the film. He seems to have lavished it with love.
My only doubt about Life of Pi is whether it will survive among the unusually high number of quality films suddenly appearing in our midst in the remainder of this year. Go see it. You will find no better film around–it’s one with the potential to stay in your mind for a long while.