22 November 2012

Review: Life of Pi

Genre: Drama

It's difficult to construe a film at sea about abandonment of self, of ties, and of possession without also reconstruïng among others Cast Away (2000), Lifeboat (1944), and - here especially - the still to be made to-film adaptation of The Queen vs. Dudley and Stephens (1884) (to which Life of Pi does, admittedly, give a solid nod in "Richard Parker"). What more can be said about existence adrift amidst barrenness than what these films have already said? How can self discovery be, if not newly investigated, then at least more richly communicated to an audience?
Though as a director Mr. Lee for his brilliant past work has my complete confidence, I cannot be sure of his knowledge of the right answers to the perfection of a trodden path. His Life of Pi as a result is a thoughtful, lush, engaging retelling of the same old responses to the same old questions; a fable of the most faithful sort; a delivery through hardship by the story-within-the-story structure, flopping a stepping stone reality between audience and fantasy; and an adaptation (in a positive sense) to history, to visual narrativity, and to the contemporary points of the medium (see the 3D theatrical release). The choices that Mr. Lee thus made, to arrive at this final product, were clearly careful, majorly intended on vaulting the emotion and the passion of the story to the audience with the greatest spring and complementarily intended on executing artistry in pictographic or layered still lives with the smartest appeal. Yet, the same choices were also to a certain extent safe, comfortable with sitting amongst those of films past without trying new poses or settings or reärranging the chairs - save perhaps one neat transition style, courtesy of his collaborating with his long-time editor Tim Squyres. So, nothing resounded, nothing shimmered, nothing broke out as stellar, though everything in compilation was smooth and textured and colorful.
Still a step well above his previous feature, the fun but easy Taking Woodstock (2009), this film hits the mark: solid execution, stability and precision, elemental goodness: a gymnastic 8.5/10.0. Mr. Danna's score especially noted, I enjoyed it (but cannot believe that there will be nothing to stand above it this year in film).

Grade: B+.

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