Life of Pi (2012), directed by Ang Lee

To be honest Life of Pi is a movie I had to drag myself to. If it wasn’t for the buzz and the glowing reviews and the inevitable Oscar nomination I probably would have given it a miss.

I read the book at some point. God only knows when, but it was long enough ago that I barely remember it. All I remember is that I seemed to be the only person around that didn’t think it was the cat’s pajamas. I remember loving the first half and then getting frustrated as the book became more and more fantastical.

And then the “did it really happen?” ending made me want to Brad Cooper the book out a window.

Well, time has passed. My tastes have matured, my appreciation of abstract theology has deepened, I’m a far more well-rounded with a more open-minded view of the world (I can almost hear my friends snorting).

In any case, some sort of intense spiritual development must have gone down because I really liked the film.

Easily the most impressive aspect of Ang’s film are the visuals. With a story that takes place primarily on a rowboat in the middle of the ocean, it would be easy to produce a bleak, claustrophobic film.

Instead Ang has managed to produce one of the most lush, colourful, beautiful films of the year, and one of the best examples of the use of 3D I have yet seen.

In regards to the 3D, its use is fabulous. It’s never showy, never used for the sake of using it, never gimmicky. It adds layers to the visuals that would not have been possible in regular old 2D and adds to the storytelling, for a change.

And it’s simply beautiful. Shots of the sea lit up with jellyfish or of Pi’s dreams of animals parading through the stars are breathtaking. For I guess obvious reasons stories related to India often use colour in amazing ways (see Renoir’s The River), and Life of Pi follows and improves on that tradition.

The story itself is as compelling as it is in the book (well, the first half of the book). It’s a fantastical story but Ang manages to sell it as entirely believable. Even the CGI tiger is reasonably affective, and I do understand the reasons a real tiger was out of the question.

To be perfectly honest, the things that I didn’t like about the book still bugged me about the movie, but not nearly as much. I can accept the ending now, even if I would have preferred something more concrete (sorry, I is what I is). The part with the magical island still lost my interest. I still found the whole thing slightly too intellectually smug for its own good.

But instead of ruining the whole, these became minor, totally personal complaints with what is generally an outstanding bit of cinema.

Life of Pi is in cinemas now.