Before the world premiere of Life of Pi at this year’s New York Film Festival on Sept 28, director Ang Lee joked that his latest film in three years hit the four most notorious “vices” in the moviemaking process: kids, animals, water and 3-D.
Although we will discover how that turns out when the film releases on Nov 22, early reviews have said Lee’s adaptation of Life of Pi is “one of the year’s most beautiful, original and adventurous pictures”.
Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, Life of Pi tells the story of Pi (Suraj Sharma), a young man who gets stranded at sea with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker after the ship carrying Pi’s family and his father’s zoo from India to Canada sinks.
On the surface, the film is about Pi’s tale of survival – yet Life of Pi holds so much more within its two-hour running time.
“Visually, Life of Pi, which mixes real tigers with computer-generated effects almost seamlessly, is like nothing seen onscreen in some time,” movie critic Justin Chang wrote in his review for Variety magazine. “And the 3-D in particular is the best since perhaps Avatar.”
Lee told the New York Film Festival audience following the screening that Life of Pi was exceedingly hard to make. Due to weather conditions and the difficulty of controlling animals, he said, only one-eighth of his planned shots were actually filmed.
Despite arduous conditions, Lee was able to push an excellent lead performance from Sharma, a newcomer who originally accompanied his brother to the audition before landing the role of Pi himself.
“By the end of it, I didn’t feel like I was acting anymore,” Sharma recently told Hollywood Reporter. “I was an instrument, of sorts, and Lee pulled the emotion through me. It just went in and came out.”
The film isn’t perfect, though. The New York Times said there’s “a clunky moment of exposition at the end that feels entirely too on-the-nose”. But we know what to expect from Lee, one of the most successful Chinese directors in Hollywood. One thing is for sure: he never disappoints.