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April 08, 2024

Life of Pi: Movie Review

By Bernie and Sand Pilarski

Bernie said:

Just for the heck of it, I Googled "Snow White and the Huntsman: Movie Review." Google gave me eighty-two pages of results. What I was curious about was how far into those pages you would have to go to get to the link to the review that Sand and I wrote for the Piker Press. As it turns out, we appeared on page fifty-seven. The way I see it, that puts us pretty much fifty pages past "who cares?" and twenty pages past "here be dragons" in the Google universe. Still, I take some solace in that Google displayed only 850 links of the three and a half million links it said it found, and we were 574th on that list.

Almost famous, huh?

More good news -- now that you're here, you don't have to Google "Life of Pi: Movie Review" and wade through all those pages to find our review. It's right here.

Movies are art. I know that. But as with any medium, there is good art, and there is transcendent art. Take sculpture for instance. Take a hunk of rock and start removing bits that don't belong there, and you could end up this, or you end up with this (One piece is a competent work, crafted well, and conveys what the artist had in mind that day. The other is a simply magical experience. The ability to turn stone into moment of searing pain, into a tale of love, compassion, loss and hope, is not something every artist can do.

I've seen some pretty good movies in my day, but only a few have been transcendent. Only a few have been able to take the medium and create an experience that is stunning. Given the state of the art today, it may be difficult to remember how mind-searingly spectacular it was to see the Imperial star cruiser appear on the screen in George Lucas' Star Wars. It was something that had never been seen before, and the movie was so successful that its imagery and even its language became a part of culture to the point that a major government defense system proposed by the President of the United States became universally known as the "Star Wars" defense initiative and nobody even batted an eye at the reference. Or if you like, go back again and watch Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain -- it is timeless entertainment.

Life of Pi is an astonishing film. Pi, the main character, is a young man from India whose father owns a zoo. Pi is an insatiably curious youth, and in the first part of the film, we follow him as he is exposed to and embraces first Hinduism, then Christianity, then Islam. His father, an atheist, challenges him to make a choice, saying that in believing in everything, you believe in nothing. Pi's life is turned upside down when his father decides that because of political instability in India the family is to move from India to Canada. Taking the animals with them to sell off in Canada, they load themselves and the animals on a Japanese freighter bound for Canada. A violent storm arises, the ship takes on water, and must be abandoned. In the chaos, Pi finds himself set adrift alone on a life boat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and ominously, a Bengal tiger.

It is an exquisitely beautiful portrayal of a clever and inventive story about the sensitive subject of a young man's spiritual journey. Because so much of this story revolves around Pi's 227 days adrift on the ocean in a lifeboat that he must share with a Bengal tiger, the film required some technical wizardry to be able to safely show the close-quarters interaction of the young man and the cat, and the computer graphics are top notch.

I'll be honest, the artistry of this film is well beyond my ability to describe it. Director Ang Lee simply blew me away with the beauty of the imagery and with the ability to make cameras and computers do what they did. It is an outstanding story, well written and well acted, with a gentle and exotic musical score. As Sand and I walked from the theater, all I could say was "Wow, that was a great movie. Wow."

While I am looking forward to adding this one to our DVD collection, it is a movie that you really ought to see on the big screen at least once. I do not speak for, nor do I pretend to understand the Motion Picture Academy, but I would have to believe that Life of Pi will be a strong contender for Best Picture at the Oscar's. It is a must see movie.

Sand said:

I thought that Cloud Atlas was going to win my heart as the best movie I've seen this year. Not my favorite movie, which would be The Avengers, but the best. Now I'm torn.

Life of Pi takes the younger son of a zookeeper, uproots him in his late teen years, and tries to transport him and his family to Canada on a cargo ship which is also shipping their zoo animals to a buyer in North America. A storm at sea sinks the cargo ship, and Pi Patel finds himself sharing a lifeboat with some animals, most notably a Bengal tiger named (charmingly) Richard Parker.

Pi finds a book in the lifeboat for survival at sea, and learns how to stay alive. Having seen all others from the ship die, he is determined to save the life of Richard Parker, who does not share the commitment to his partner on the face of the relentless ocean.

If you, under whatever conditions you had to endure, were granted a vision of the transcendent, would that vision be worth more than anything else? Would it transform for you everything else that you ever had to experience again?

And if you tried to tell someone of what you had experienced, and they just didn't buy it, how could you ever convince them that what you saw was True?

It was this aspect of Life of Pi that fascinated me. Certainly the visual presentation was astonishingly beautiful, but the story is the struggle between belief and faith. The first relies on what we have been taught and what we know to be possible; the second looks past belief and sees something that may or may not be accessible to others.

Glorious movie, thought-provoking tale. I can't find enough words to praise it as it deserves.

Article © Bernie and Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-11-26
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