Sunday 30 December 2012

Life of Pi (2012)

I've already told you about one 2012 film, so under the terms of my experiment I've really no business saying anything here about 'Life of Pi', but it's in the cinemas now and I think you should probably see it (whoever you are), so I'll make this exception.

The novel won the Booker Prize in 2002, which means it ought at least to be a story worth telling, and which can be told well.  I've enjoyed very much the only Booker-Prize-winning book I've read (and have appeared on-stage in a blues-musical about a Booker Prize loser, and once lived for a troubled year with the grandchild of the 1974 Booker winner), but haven't read 'Life of Pi', and was assured by a friend that it was a book that must never, ever be made into a movie.

Despite this, it made an enthralling and stunningly attractive film, one of the most visually delicious I've encountered, with a wealth of colour and animals and truly special effects.  Despite this, it's thoughtful, though not unexciting; ambiguous but never vague; it's stylised, but you can believe in it.  I only hesitate to describe it as 'intelligent' because I suspect I'd be taken aside and assured that the whole thing is a nonsense when compared to the book.  Well, so be it.

A real live tiger, probably.

The majority of the film follows a boy, Pi, trying to live simultaneously as a Hindu, a Christian and a Muslim while adrift on the ocean in a small lifeboat, which he shares with a ferocious tiger.

I like animals - not in person, but in theory - and this is an animal film, with entrancing zebras and flying fishes, Richard Parker the tiger, orangutans, boars and flamingos.  My favourite was a hyena, whose fluffiness, aggression and voracious appetite reminded me of an owl puppet of my acquaintance.  To look at this as a story of nice and horrible and enjoyable animals isn't at all to miss the film's point, or to ignore the questions at its heart.  If you would like to be charmed and alarmed by animals, and yet be left pondering some long while after the film has ended, I don't think you would regret watching 'Life of Pi'.

This is what night looks like on the pacific, from above.

I might well look out the book during 2013, and am left keen to see some more films from or about India (where, I have wholly failed to so far mention, the eponymous Pi Patel starts his journey).  On that front, a film of Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children' (another Booker Prize winner) has also come out this week, and I've been looking forward to it for some while - and my parents have lent me 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel', but that seems to be entirely about retired white people with India merely a vacation, so may be the opposite of what I'm after.  Both of these are 2012 releases, so you probably won't hear about them here again, at least for a while.


  1. Have you seen Slumdog Millionaire (2008)?

    1. I haven't, but I probably should, at some point. I'll take it as a recommendation.