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Special film, special story


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Yes, I have come late to this subject, but I finally viewed the film Life of Pi last evening now that it is out on DVD. Who has time to go to the theater and watch a good film?

It’s understandable that the movie won awards, the direction and computer graphics were astounding, but as a writer I kept focusing on the story. I have not read the book by Yann Martel but if the movie follows a majority of his story then I understand why Ang Lee chose the work. I won’t spoil the story for you here, but just mention the plot devices that I found so attractive.

As any author knows, telling a tale in flashback is one of the more complicated ways to present the reader, or viewer, with the necessary facts of a story. From the moment Piscine Molitor Patel, nicknamed Pi, begins to tell his story we are presented with a wondrous tale almost too farfetched to believe.

It is in fact that belief which is challenged later in the plot and an alternative belief is presented to the audience. Not one flashback but two, and we are asked which one do we choose to believe. A hard choice considering the tremendous fantasy we have just observed.

So much of literature asks moral questions and points the reader towards an answer, Life of Pi does just the opposite. The character Pi is filled with beliefs in search of an answer. I don’t think there has been a story like this written in a long time; perhaps it is akin to Homer’s Odyssey where the famed Odysseus faces trials wrought by the gods before his journey ends.

Interesting that Odysseus translates from the Greek as “trouble.” Pi as a boy is viewed by his family as the embodiment of that word, but the viewer is presented with a bright articulate lad filled with questions about life. Pi is probably one of the best characters I have seen in a story for a long time.

So now I have to go read the book. Yann Martel is a world traveling French-Canadian with several titles to his name, but Life of Pi is his real award winner. If you haven’t you should, if you don’t then you will miss out on some of the most spectacular CG effects on film.

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I saw the movie in the theater. Inveterate movie-goer that I am -- I attend up to three movies a year; that makes me an expert, doesn't it? -- I wanted to see what all the talk was about.

I liked the film. I left the theater glad that I'd seen it. However, I also left just a bit unsatisfied. We all know the feeling we have when we see an exceptional movie and leave the theater on a high because of it. Somehow, even with all the good things in this film, I didn't have that sense that I'd just been uplifted, or amazed, or fulfilled.

I don't want to leave the impression it wasn't a good movie. It was, and as I said, I'm glad I saw it. There was a lot to like about it, starting with the name of the tiger. I just wish it had had a little more, well, something. Maybe someone else can describe it better than I can. Or maybe everyone else will walk away from it with that excited, enthused feeling we like to feel, leaving a theater.

Des is a great one to analyze film. Maybe he can jump in.

The movie was certainly better than average. I, personally, enjoyed Lincoln more.

C

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I haven't read the book or seen the film, but during the pre-release media frenzy I saw an interview with Ang Lee who said if he couldn't have made it in 3D he wouldn't have taken it on.

Lincoln is, I believe, sadly Tigerless.

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Pi as a boy is viewed by his family as the embodiment of that word, but the viewer is presented with a bright articulate lad filled with questions about life. Pi is probably one of the best characters I have seen in a story for a long time.

Yes, I enjoyed it as well. I went to see it only because of my need for solidarity with all the poor people at Rhythm & Hues visual effects here in LA who lost their jobs last month when the place went under. They did all this brilliant work bringing the tiger to life (and all the other creatures, too, like the Zebra and the Orangutan on the boat), but the company got into financial trouble and sank... even though Pi's boat kept sailing.

I always say, "a film succeeded if I'm still thinking about it days later." There are aspects of the film that I don't buy into: [spoiler ALERT] Like, why would the tiger suddenly realize the island was deadly and voluntarily go back to the boat and patiently wait for the teenager to join him and take them away? A friend of mine dislikes the film because it left us hanging with an ambiguous ending, but my feeling is that this was the point: pick the ending you prefer. The boy-grown-up explains that the story was really about his search for God and meaning in the universe, and either way, he somehow found the strength to survive against impossible odds.

Me, I prefer the one with the tiger -- logical inconsistencies and all. Beautiful movie, incredible visuals, and good acting. BTW, the star of the film had never acted before, and this was his first film. I bought his performance 100%.

Noted film critic Roger Ebert once said, "a great film makes you believe you've been to a place you've never been to before, shows you people that you can empathize with (or at least understand), and tells you a story that makes sense." Pi did all this and more. Quite an amazing story in every way. I can see why it's well on its way to making $600 million already!

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