Sunday, 13 January 2013

Life of Pi: mustn't cry, dammit..

Artist's impression of Richard Parker

Just a quick post to supplement what the other half's already written.

I read Yann Martel's Life Of Pi a few years ago. It tells the story of a shipwrecked Indian boy's struggle to survive, lost at sea with a Bengal tiger. It's pretty fantastical, and is very much open to interpretation (I went full-Narnia and swallowed the whole thing). I think the interpretation of the story is pretty faithful, with a few Tom Bombadil edits* where scenes wouldn't make the leap to film well. The book paints very vivid pictures - not least of Pi himself - yet most of it takes place on a lifeboat, alone in an endless ocean. It's easy to see why the book has been called unfilmable.

But good news: it isn't! And the cinematography is amazing. It's treated like a play with one set, where the set is illuminated and decorated differently for different scenes, but the illumination and decoration takes brilliant advantage of millions of dollar's worth of CG and 3D. I'm a fan of the latest wave of 3D (especially for animated films), but it can still be gimmicky. Not so here - this was clearly a film made for it, rather than just jumping on the bandwagon. Anything involving water looked incredible (and a good thing too, given that the set was made of it), but the animals were the piece de resistance. Richard Parker the tiger (who either represents man's animal side, or, well, a tiger) could have fooled Attenborough. When CG is done right, you shouldn't know it's there, and I think there was only one occasion where I noticed that something wasn't quite as it should be

This film is a reminder that the cinema is still about fantasy and escapism.

*. Tom Bombadil edits
Tom Bombadil is a pillock from Lord of the Rings. He adds little to the book other than irritating verse and his weird, sylvan Stepford Wife and he would have trashed the films by his mere presence - imagine Ian Anderson running onstage at a Mastodon gig for a jam. Therefore, cutting him out was a necessary change for the leap to film. Some stuff just doesn't translate.

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