It is as remarkable a culture clash as I can recall. In a small, wooden lifeboat straddling the waves of the vast Pacific Ocean sits an Indian teenage boy named Pi and a fully-grown Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Victims of a shipwreck, they sit at opposite ends of the 27-foot boat, watching the horizon in search of land, food and rescue. Together as man and beast, they drift across the deep blue sea for 227 days, embarking on a death-defying voyage so magnificent and so moving its telling is said to have made many believe in God. While “Life of Pi” did nothing to alter my faith (or lack thereof), it did much to confirm my beliefs in the power of cinema and the miraculous possibilities of storytelling.
The director is Ang Lee, the Oscar-winning Taiwanese filmmaker who gave us the ground-breaking “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in 2000 and the heart-wrenching “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005. It is based on the worldwide bestseller by Yann Martel, published to much acclaim in 2001 and arguably something of a modern classic. With its countless metaphysical elements and physical near-impossibilities, Martel’s spiritually rich novel was, like “Watchmen” and “Cloud Atlas,” popularly deemed “unfilmable.” But when one sees the story unfolding on-screen with such fluidity and grandness under the firm grasp of Lee, one struggles to recall why a faithful and elegant transition from page to screen was considered so unassailable and unthinkable. (Continue Reading…)