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Growing up in Pondicherry, 'French' India during the 1970s, Piscine, known to all as Pi (at 17 years of age is played by Suraj Sharma; the contemporary character is played by Irrfan Khan; and as a youngster in the film's early scenes, by Ayush Tandon), has a rich life. His father (Adil Hussain) owns a zoo, and Pi spends his days among tigers, zebras, hippos, and other creatures. But after Pi attempts to befriend a Bengal tiger, named Richard Parker, the young boy learns a harsh lesson from his father about the relationship between human and beast. As circumstances worsen for them, the family decides to move to Canada, hitching a ride on a Japanese cargo ship, where they encounter a sadistic French chef (Gérard Depardieu). Soon, Pi finds himself in the company of a hyena, zebra, orangutan, and Richard Parker after a shipwreck sets them adrift in the Pacific Ocean.

Review by Louise Keller:
The extraordinary 3D images of a boy and a Bengal tiger stranded in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean may be arresting cinema, but it is the emotional impact of this unimaginable story that sweeps us away. Allegorical and open to interpretation, Yann Martel's bestselling novel offers un-parallelled challenges for any filmmaker to bring its story to the screen; it is with breathtaking cutting-edge technology and invisible visual effects that Oscar-winning director Ang Lee hones his craft to deliver a remarkable, unforgettable cinematic experience.

There are interruptions in the early part of the film as structured by David Magee's screenplay, when the adult Pi (Irrfan Khan), an Indian living in Canada, tells his story to Canadian writer (Rafe Spall), who was living in India. As a result it takes some time for the story to acquire its rhythms and the magic of its essence to kick in.

The exotic and colourful nature of the story begins in the former French colony of Pondicherry in India, where a zoo of flamencos, zebras, buffalo, rabbits, elephants, hippos and tigers form the backdrop to life for a youngster whose parents named him Piscine - after a Paris swimming pool. Individual he may be, but stupid he is not and the inevitable schooldays teasing quickly prompts him to change his name to Pi.

Watch out for the scene in which a young Pi (Ayush Tandon) ventures into the animal quarters to take a closer look at the prize Bengal Tiger called Richard Parker (there's a humorous anecdote that explains the tiger's name). He learns an unforgettable lesson from his father (Adil Hussain) - that puts him on the path to manhood. In the context of Pi's passion for religion (of many faiths), his father teaches him other things - like believing in everything is the same as believing in nothing. Everything must begin with rational thought.

There is nothing rational about the decision that the now 17 year old Pi (Suraj Sharma) takes, when he goes onto the deck of a Japanese cargo vessel in the middle of the night to watch a violent thunderstorm erupt. The family is moving to Canada together with some of the animals from the zoo, and we can feel the lurching of the boat as Pi is thrown from side to side. These are the events that see Pi tossed into a lifeboat at sea, which he finds to his horror, he is sharing with a frisky hyena, a drugged zebra and a placid orang-utan. The shock when we (along with Pi) discover the ferocious tiger Richard Parker is also onboard is one takes some time with which to come to terms.

The scenes between boy and tiger are some of the most extraordinary I have ever seen onscreen. Our eyes can see what is happening but our rational brain disbelieves it. But we trust our heart. So begins the love-hate relationship between Pi and Richard Parker; Pi decides if he cannot tame the tiger, he will train him. What follows is a desperate bid for survival - not only from the vast ocean and its elements but from the tiger, a wild animal, who is also intent to survive.

There's a survival guide book in the life-boat with procedures to follow - like keeping busy without exertion, playing mental games to stay alert and telling stories. Above all, it says: Never lose hope.

In his first acting role, Suraj Sharma delivers everything you could hope for as Pi, recognising that by being forced to tend for the tiger's needs, he has been given a purpose. All the cast is excellent and notable is Gerard Depardieu as the vulgar French Chef onboard the cargo ship, remembered for all the wrong reasons. Of course, alongside Sharma, it is the tiger that gets the acting honours - and is unforgettable.

The visuals are jaw-gaping, often so beautiful it is hard to describe. Claudio Miranda is the cinematographer who has shot the film so beautifully. Transparent clear water is a recurring theme throughout the film - like the scene when the ocean is illuminated from glowing sea anemones under a black night sky sprinkled with diamond stars. Who cannot be amazed by the scenes on the island that gives by day and takes by night with thousands of meerkats?

It would be a crime to miss this wonderful uplifting film, whose moral is to never give up. Enjoy it with your eyes and your heart.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Life of Pi is an emotion-filled adventure that showcases the best, most subtle use of 3D technology - and all the latest tools of filmmaking - not for novelty effects but to make visceral cinema. The close up, the eyes, the emotions, the enormity of the angry sea .... Ang Lee's vision for adapting the novel to the screen is extraordinary in its ambition and wondrous in its execution. It couldn't have been easy to pitch the concept. All the producers and financiers deserve a medal for movie making bravery and Lee deserves the gold medal for sustained excellence. So does his cast, his entire team and his mother (surely).

Both Suraj Sharma as the 17 year old Pi adrift in the Pacific on a lifeboat and Irrfan Khan as the older Pi telling his story to a writer in Montreal connect us to the character and make us fall in love with him - as in drop the safeguards and barriers that separate strangers and enable empathy. But this is not all. Richard Parker also wins our hearts as the tiger, albeit not immediately; he earns our love in a non-human performance that relies on him being what he is: a wild animal. And yet .... These are the three most important characters - but not the only ones that matter.

Adil Hussain is outstanding as Pi's father, a good man who loves hi son, his family and is Pi's lasting mentor - in ways he cannot have foreseen. Gerard Depardieu has one scene as the ship's testy cook - but we won't forget it. Tabu plays Pi's mother with warmth and resilience, subtlety and stillness.

Life of Pi is also a great visual experience; Lee uses every available cinematic device to amaze us with images that are exotic, beautiful, dramatic, terrifying or sublime. The storm that wrecks the cargo ship on which Pi and his family, plus half their zoo, are travelling is as powerful and affecting as anything in Wolfgang Petersen's unforgettable Das Boot or his Perfect Storm. Lee uses the sea as a mirror for the sky in many moods as well as a looking glass; he gives us the phosphorous magic light of a million jelly fish and a dream or fantasy underwater sequence (digitally enhanced with great artistry) that is so beautiful we can hardly contain a gasp.

While much of the film is taken up with the adventure of a young man lost at sea in incredible circumstances, the film is also about less tangible things, including man's need to believe. This is teased out in both the novel's many multi-religious, spiritual references and in the prosaic matter of ship insurance.

Take what you want out of this really epic experience - you have much to choose from.

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(US, 2012)

CAST: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain, Gerard Depardieu, Rafe Spall, Tabu, Shravanati Sainath, Andrea Di Stefano, Ayush Tandon, Ayan Khan, Vibish Sivakumar, Gautam Belur

PRODUCER: Ang Lee, Gil Netter, David Womark


SCRIPT: David Magee (novel by Yann Martel)


EDITOR: Tim Squyres

MUSIC: Mychael Danna


RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes



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