Friday, September 28, 2012

NYFF DIARY: My love (and hate) for 'Life of Pi'

Hello all once again, checking in for the first time since my move to Film Misery. In that time I have written many challenging pieces, one most recently which was my review of Ang Lee's 'Life of Pi'. The film had the ceremonious honour of being the first press screening I have attended in my life, and the act of seeing so many critics I had only known in an online context was a jarring one. It may sound odd, but not yet being a paid member of the press and being around so many of them was profoundly humanizing. Suddenly they're not figures or opinions, but people. Everything clicks in that precise moment.

Unfortunately I was not so lucky in receiving 'Life of Pi', Ang Lee's adaptation of the popular Yann Martel novel. Many a director has had their fingers in this, ranging from M. Night Shyamalan to Alfonso Cuaron, but it ultimately fell to Lee. Ang Lee is an interesting choice for the project, not merely for his visually unassuming work in prior films, but more for his fusion of storytelling and filmmaking. He's committed himself to the telling of other peoples' stories, and while that works better for 'Life of Pi' than it did for 'Hulk', it's not without its difficulties.

As I wrote in my review at Film Misery, "The film shoots itself in the foot early on by utilizing a framing device used earlier this year, to equally debilitating effect in John Carter. That is the narrating of a story by the main character to the writer of the source book. Of course Rafe Spall is never addressed explicitly as Yann Martel, which does allow the actor the chance to make a rather devastated impression as the conduit for the audience. The issue is whenever such a framing device is used, it cuts off a great deal of the tension regardless of directorial persuasion and it builds an outright barrier between the characters and the viewer."

Much of my review is spent hailing Ang Lee's spectacular direction, adding an extra dimension that does much to aid the visual weight of the picture. Outside that, there's a lot of back and forth argument regarding the more obnoxious properties, particularly in Suraj Sharma's performance. It just didn't connect with me at all. It made the ending twist of the film a particularly difficult watch, as the emotion of his story rests solely on his face. Not a particularly solid way of doling out devastating plot news. And yet, through all of the negativity involved, I suggested that people need to see 'Life of Pi'.

And why? After all the film's inconsistencies, is the visual work of Ang Lee really with the price of 3D admission? The answer is yes. Lee composes some breathtakingly complex visuals that need to be viewed on the big screen. Nowhere else will the aspect ratio changes be able to have their say of significance. Only on the big screen with the deep texture of the images be able to work its magic, narrative misgivings and all. Here's hoping my negative review didn't turn them off of the film. That would be a mistake. And 'Life of Pi' effectively turned me off of water films for the day, gutting any drive I had to watch 'Leviathan'.

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