Life of Pi (film)
|Life of Pi|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ang Lee|
|Produced by||Ang Lee
|Screenplay by||David Magee|
|Based on||Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
|Music by||Mychael Danna|
|Editing by||Tim Squyres|
|Studio||Rhythm & Hues
Fox 2000 Pictures
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||127 minutes|
Life of Pi is a 2012 American 3D live-action/computer-animated adventure drama film based on Yann Martel's 2001 novel of the same name. Directed by Ang Lee, the film is based on an adapted screenplay by David Magee, and stars Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Gérard Depardieu, Tabu, and Adil Hussain.
The storyline revolves around a 16-year old Indian boy named Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, who survives a shipwreck in which his family dies, and is stranded in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
Upon release, Life of Pi became a critical and commercial success, earning over $600 million worldwide. At the 85th Academy Awards it had eleven nominations, including Best Picture, and won four (the most for the evening) including Best Director for Ang Lee. It was also nominated for three Golden Globe Awards which included the Best Picture – Drama and the Best Director and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.
A novelist has been advised by Pi's honorary uncle to talk to Pi Patel, a middle-aged Indian immigrant from Pondicherry living in Montréal, Québec, who has an amazing story to tell. He told the writer that the story “will make you believe in God.”
Pi's father named him Piscine Molitor after a swimming pool in France. As a child he changed his name to "Pi" (the Greek letter, π) because he was tired of being called "Pissing Patel" (due to the sound of his name). In a flashback it was seen that his family owned a zoo, and Pi took great interest in the animals, especially a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. When Pi tries to feed the tiger in great curiosity, his father runs in and angrily tells him that the tiger is dangerous and not like a human. He forces Pi to witness the tiger killing a goat to prove his point. Pi is raised Hindu and vegetarian, but at 12 years old, he is introduced to Christianity and then Islam, and starts to follow all three religions as he "just wants to love God." His mother supports his desire to grow, but his father, a rationalist, tries to convert him to his own way of thinking ("think rationally"). Pi meets a girl in a dance class where he plays the mridangam and they evidently begin to fall in love.
When Pi is 16, his father decides to move the family to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he intends to settle and sell the zoo animals. Saddened by this, he bids farewell to his brief lover and promises to return. They book passage on a Japanese freighter named Tsimtsum. One night there is a storm; the ship begins to founder while Pi is on deck. He tries to find his family, but a crew member throws him into a lifeboat. Just as the ship falls into the sea, a freed zebra leaps from the ship to land on the boat with him. Pi then watches helplessly as the ship sinks, killing his family and the crew. After the storm, Pi finds himself in the lifeboat with the injured zebra, and is joined by an orangutan. A spotted hyena emerges from the tarp covering half of the boat where it snaps at Pi, forcing him to retreat to the top of the tarp and later kills the zebra and the orangutan. Suddenly the tiger, Richard Parker, emerges from under the tarp, killing the hyena. Richard Parker then takes numerous swipes at Pi, practically running him off the boat; Richard Parker then devours the bodies of the other animals at night.
Pi gets out biscuits, water rations, and a hand axe and builds a small raft to stay at a safe distance from Richard Parker. Pi begins fishing and is able to feed Richard Parker. He also collects rain water for both to drink. When the tiger jumps off to hunt fish, at first Pi wants to let it drown, then he relents and helps it climb back into the boat. At one point, in a nighttime encounter with a breaching Humpback whale, Pi loses much of his supplies, forcing him to eat fish for the first time in his life. A while later, Pi trains Richard Parker to accept him in the boat. He also realizes that caring for the tiger is keeping him alive.
After many days at sea, another thunderstorm approaches to Pi, as he thinks it is a 'sign' from God and prays to him. He tells Richard Parker to come out, as he stares at the frightening bolts of lightning, and Richard Parker gets scared of the storm. After a miraculous and scary lightning strike, Pi hides under the tarp as he makes it extend to cover the entire boat.
Weeks later and half dead, they reach a mysterious floating island of edible plants, supporting a mangrove jungle, fresh water pools, and a large population of meerkats. Both Pi and Richard Parker eat and drink freely and regain strength. But at night, the island transforms into a hostile environment: Richard Parker retreats to the lifeboat and the resident meerkats sleep in the trees while the fresh water pools turn acidic and digest the dead fish in the pools. Pi discovers that the island itself is carnivorous after finding a human tooth embedded in a flower. The next day, Pi and Richard Parker leave the island.
The lifeboat eventually reaches the coast of Mexico. Pi is crushed that Richard Parker does not acknowledge him before disappearing into the jungle. Pi is rescued and carried to a hospital, weeping. Insurance agents for the Japanese freighter come to interview him, but they do not believe his story and ask what "really" happened. He tells a less fantastic account of sharing the lifeboat with his mother, a Buddhist sailor with a broken leg, and the cook. The cook kills the sailor in order to eat him and use him as bait. In a later struggle, Pi's mother pushes her son to safety on a smaller raft, and the cook stabs her and throws her overboard. Later, Pi returns, takes the knife and kills the cook.
In the present day, the novelist notes the parallels between the two stories: the orangutan was Pi's mother, the zebra was the sailor, the hyena was the cook, and Richard Parker, the tiger, was Pi himself. Pi asks him which story the writer prefers, and the writer chooses the one with the tiger because it "is the better story", to which Pi responds, "Thank you. And so it goes with God". Glancing at a copy of the insurance report, the writer sees the agents wrote that Pi somehow survived 227 days at sea with an adult Bengal tiger: the insurance agents had also chosen the more fantastic story. The novelist gets up and stays for dinner with Pi and his family. A final scene is shown of Richard Parker as the tiger walks away into the jungle, without looking back to Pi, and disappearing behind the brush as the film's color changes to a dull grey and fades out.
- Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel:
- Tabu as Gita Patel, Pi's mother
- Adil Hussain as Santosh Patel, Pi's father
- Ravi Patel, Pi's older brother:
- Ayan Khan as Ravi, age 7
- Mohamed Abbas Khaleeli as Ravi, age 15
- Vibish Sivakumar as Ravi, age 18
- Gérard Depardieu as the Cook
- Po-Chieh Wang as the Sailor
- Rafe Spall as the Writer (Yann Martel)
- Shravanthi Sainath as Anandi, Pi's teenage girlfriend
- Andrea Di Stefano as the Priest
- Elie Alouf as Mamaji, Pi's uncle
Life of Pi is directed by Ang Lee and based on a screenplay by David Magee. The screenplay is adapted from the 2001 novel of the same name written by Yann Martel. Before Lee, the project had numerous directors and writers attached, and the Los Angeles Times credited Fox 2000 Pictures executive Elizabeth Gabler with keeping the project active. Gabler in February 2003 had acquired the project to adapt Life of Pi into a film. She hired the screenwriter Dean Georgaris to write an adapted screenplay. In the following October, Fox 2000 announced a partnership with M. Night Shyamalan to direct the film. Shyamalan was attracted to the novel particularly because its protagonist also comes from Pondicherry in India. The partners anticipated for Shyamalan to direct the film adaptation after completing The Village. Shyamalan also replaced Georgaris as the screenwriter, writing a new screenplay for the film. Ultimately, Shyamalan chose to film Lady in the Water after The Village, and Fox 2000 Pictures decided to find another director. In March 2005, they entered talks with Alfonso Cuarón to become the director. Shyamalan said in 2006, "I was hesitant [to direct] because the book has kind of a twist ending. And I was concerned that as soon as you put my name on it, everybody would have a different experience."
Cuarón decided to direct Children of Men instead, and in October 2005, Fox 2000 Pictures hired Jean-Pierre Jeunet to direct the film. Jeunet began writing the adapted screenplay with Guillaume Laurant, and filming was scheduled to begin in mid-2006, partially in India. Jeunet eventually left the project, and in February 2009, Fox 2000 Pictures hired Ang Lee to direct the film. In May 2010, Lee and the producer Gil Netter proposed a reported budget of $120 million, at which the studio balked, placing the project's development on hold for a short time. David Magee was hired to write the screenplay, as Lee began to spend several months looking for someone to cast as Pi.
Lee stated that water was a major inspiration behind making the film in 3-D: "I thought this was a pretty impossible movie to make technically. It's so expensive for what it is. You sort of have to disguise a philosophical book as an adventure story. I thought of 3-D half a year before 'Avatar' was on the screen. I thought water, with its transparency and reflection, the way it comes out to you in 3-D, would create a new theatrical experience and maybe the audience or the studio would open up their minds a little bit to accept something different." Following the premiere of the film, Lee stated that his desire to take risks and chances helped with his direction, saying "In a strange way it did feel like we're the vessels, we have to surrender to movie god. We have to let things happen. I just had this feeling, I'll follow this kid to wherever this movie takes me. I saw the movie start to unravel in front of me."
After 3,000 young men auditioned for the film's lead, in October 2010 Lee chose to cast Suraj Sharma, a 17-year-old student and an acting newcomer. Upon receiving the role, Sharma underwent extensive training in ocean survival, as well as in yoga and meditation practices to prepare for the part. Two months after Sharma was cast, it was announced that Gérard Depardieu would play the role of the Chef, Irrfan Khan would play the adult Pi. It was also announced that Adil Hussain would play Pi's father, while Tabu was in talks to play the role of Pi’s mother.
In April 2011, it was announced that Tobey Maguire would be joining the film in the role originally referred to as "a reporter." However, in September 2012, it was announced that Lee had cut Tobey Maguire from the film. Lee justified the cut by stating that he did it "to be consistent with the other casting choices made for the film, I decided to go with an entirely international cast." Like Shahrukh Khan, Lee described Maguire's presence also as "too jarringly recognizable." He reshot the scenes with Rafe Spall in the role later referred to as the Writer.
Principal photography for the film began on January 18, 2011 in Puducherry at the Holy Rosary Church in Muthialpet. Filming continued in Puducherry until January 31 and moved to other parts of India, including the popular hill station of Munnar in Kerala, as well as Taiwan. The crew filmed in Taiwan for five and a half months in Taipei Zoo, an airport in Taichung, and Kenting National Park, located in Pingtung County where Lee was born. The ocean scenes of the film were shot at a giant wave tank built by the crew in an abandoned airport. The tank is known as the world’s largest self-generating wave tank, with a capacity of 1.7 million gallons. With production scheduled to last two and a half months at the tank, cinematographer Claudio Miranda assisted in the tank's design in order to get the most out of it for lighting, explaining, "We knew we were going to be inside there shooting for 2.5 months, so it was worth it to be able to do anything we want. On all these kind of scenes, we had an idea of what the weather would be like. In that tank, I can create storm clouds, nightfall. We had curtains that I can block out [light], doors to open and let in real sunlight,” Miranda says. “So lighting-wise, [the movie] had a big ebb and flow." After photography was completed in Taiwan, production moved back to India and concluded in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
The lead visual effects company for Life of Pi was Rhythm & Hues Studios (R&H). 3D effects for the film were created by a team of R&H artists in Mumbai and Hyderabad (India), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Vancouver (Canada), and Kaohsiung (Taiwan). Artist Abdul Rahman in the Malaysian branch underscored the global nature of the effects process, saying that "the special thing about Life of Pi is that it was the first time we did something called remote rendering, where we engaged our cloud infrastructure in Taiwan called CAVE (Cloud Animation and Visual Effects)." VFX supervisor David Conley noted that 'we had a kid in Taiwan whose sole job was to animate the tiger’s testicles!'.
The R&H VFX (Visual Effects) Supervisor Bill Westenhofer said that discussions of the project began with Ang Lee in August 2009. Westenhofer noted that Lee "knew we had done the lion in the first Narnia movie. He asked, 'Does a digital character look more or less real in 3D?' We looked at each other and thought that was a pretty good question." He also stated that during these meetings, Lee said, "‘I look forward to making art with you.’ This was really for me one of the most rewarding things I’ve worked on and the first chance to really combine art with VFX. Every shot was artistic exploration, to make the ocean a character and make it interesting we had to strive to make it as visually stunning as possible.” Rhythm & Hues spent a year on research and development, " building upon its already vast knowledge of CG animation" to develop the tiger. The British Film Institute's Sight & Sound magazine suggested that, "Life of Pi can be seen as the film Rhythm & Hues has been building up to all these years, by taking things they learned from each production from Cats & Dogs to Yogi Bear, integrating their animals in different situations and environments, pushing them to do more, and understanding how all of this can succeed both visually and dramatically."
The film's musical score was composed by Mychael Danna, who previously wrote the music to Lee's films The Ice Storm and Ride with the Devil. A soundtrack album of the music was released by Sony Music on November 19, 2012. The album features the track "Pi's Lullaby", which was co-written by Danna and Bombay Jayashri, who performs the song in Tamil.
Due to the film's holiday release, Life of Pi's financial success had been under review. Dorothy Pomerantz of Forbes said, "It looks like chances are very slim that the film will earn back its production and marketing costs let alone turn a profit." Pomerantz attributes this to the fact that film is not led by a big name star and faces other winter blockbusters. John Horn and Ben Fritz of The Los Angeles Times compared the film to Martin Scorsese's Hugo, a large-budget 3D film that opened during the 2011 Thanksgiving week. They said that Life of Pi could have ended up like Hugo by "failing to connect with moviegoers" and become a "financial failure." Similar speculation had been made by other news sources.
Whether or not Hurricane Sandy would affect the film's publicity was also a question. Because the film includes a massive storm, it was speculated that the recent storm may result in lower box office revenue due to the unintentional overtones of Sandy's devastation. A Fox spokesperson made note that there were no plans to change the film’s marketing approach.
During the marketing campaign for Life of Pi, the film was promoted as "the next Avatar" in trailers and TV spots. James Cameron, the director of Avatar, later became the subject of two featurettes that focus on the film's 3D and computer-generated imagery. In addition, the original novel was re-released in a movie tie-in edition. This was later followed by the release of The Making of Life of Pi: A Film, a Journey, a book by Jean-Christophe Castelli that details how Life of Pi was brought to the big screen.
Theatrical release 
Life of Pi had a wide release in the United States on November 21, 2012 in both traditional and 3D viewing formats. It was originally scheduled to be released on December 14, 2012, but when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was announced for the same release date, Life of Pi was postponed a week. It was then shifted a month in advance.
Home media 
Life of Pi was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D in North America, on March 12, 2013. The film's 2D Blu-ray release contains many special features, including a one-hour making-of special entitled A Filmmaker's Epic Journey, two featurettes focusing on the film's visual effects, as well as two behind-the-scene looks at storyboarding and pre-production artwork. In addition, the film's 3D Blu-ray release contains five deleted scenes and a featurette entitled VFX Progressions that takes a look at what was shot and how it evolved to be what was rendered on screen.
Box office 
As of May 8, 2013[update], Life of Pi has grossed $124,772,844 in North America, and $484,029,542 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $608,802,386. During its opening on the extended Thanksgiving weekend, the film debuted in 2,902 theaters throughout the United States and Canada and grossed $30,573,101. The film did well internationally and is one of the few Hollywood films to earn more in China than in the United States. In Chinese mainland, from November 22 to December 24, the film topped the box office for three weeks, and grossed over $91 million. As of January 24, 2013[update], it had also topped the box office for three weeks in Australia, Chile, and four weeks in Mexico and Peru. The film became the biggest Hollywood hit of the year in India and is also estimated to be the third-highest grossing Hollywood release of all time in the country behind Avatar and 2012. Life of Pi has earned an impressive HK$45,058,653 (US$5.8 million) at the Hong Kong box office, making it the highest grossing Ang Lee film in Hong Kong.
Critical reception 
Life of Pi received widespread critical acclaim. It has an 88% approval rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 213 reviews. On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 79 out of 100, based on 44 reviews, indicating "Generally favorable reviews."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Life of Pi 4 out of 4 stars, referring to it as "a miraculous achievement of storytelling and a landmark of visual mastery" as well as "one of the best films of the year." He particularly praised the film's use of 3D that he described as "deepen[ing] the film's sense of places and events." Comparatively, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone highlighted the use of 3D in the film suggesting that "like Hugo, from Martin Scorsese, Life of Pi puts 3D in the hands of a worldclass film artist. (Ang) Lee uses 3D with the delicacy and lyricism of a poet. You don't just watch this movie, you live it." Parmita Borah of Eastern Fare says, "There is this one scene in particular where the entire ocean is covered with jelly fishes which makes you feel like 'this is what heaven must look like'."
The Los Angeles Times critic Betsy Sharkey referred to the film as a "masterpiece," stating that
"There is always a poetic aesthetic that Lee brings to his best work – the brutal martial arts ballet of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or the homophobic hatred against the backcountry grandeur of Brokeback Mountain, which would win him an Oscar for directing in 2006. In Life of Pi, certainly given its technological achievements, the filmmaker has raised the bar. Not since James Cameron's breathtaking blue Avatar in 2009 has 3-D had such impact."
"Life of Pi breaks the paradigm that 3-D has to be some big, action fantasy spectacle, superhero movie [....] The movie is visually amazing, inventive, and it works on you in ways you’re not really aware of. It takes you on a journey, and unless you’ve read the book – which I hadn’t – you have no idea where that journey is going. It does what good 3-D is supposed to do, which is, it allows you to forget you’re watching a 3-D movie."
According to French journalist Marjolaine Gout, the movie is "a philosophical tale where Noah’s Ark metamorphoses into 'The Raft of the Medusa'". She adds that it is "a visual masterpiece" in which "Ang Lee proves, once again, his talent as a universal storyteller". She also writes about the visual poetry of the movie reminding viewers of the works of classical painters and the symbolic of kolams. The film got 8 out of 10 stars, the readers gave 7 stars.
Yann Martel, the author of the novel on which the film is based, found the film to be a "delightful" adaptation, saying,
"I’m happy it works so well as a film. Even if the ending is not as ambiguous as the book’s, the possibility that there might be another version of Pi’s story comes at you unexpectedly and raises the same important questions about truth, perception and belief."
A. O. Scott of the The New York Times was critical of the film's narrative frame, arguing that "the movie invites you to believe in all kinds of marvelous things, but it also may cause you to doubt what you see with your own eyes – or even to wonder if, in the end, you have seen anything at all." Scott further criticized the film for repressing the darker themes of the tale. Nick Schager of The Village Voice also panned the film stating "A stacked-deck theological inquiry filtered through a Titanic-by-way-of–Slumdog Millionaire narrative, Life of Pi manages occasional spiritual wonder through its 3-D visuals but otherwise sinks like a stone." Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 2 out of 5 stars, and states "despite some lovely images and those eyepopping effects, it is a shallow and self-important shaggy-dog story – or shaggy-tiger story [....] It deserves every technical prize going."
The film has been described as containing a "subtle, artistic warning" about the dangers of increased anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions and ocean acidification, the acidic island Pi and Richard Parker encounter being compared to Castello Aragonese in the Tyrrhenian Sea near Naples and Richard Parker's final dismissive departure representing the "not too pleasant face of Gaia (see Gaia hypothesis)."
Despite the Oscar for Best Visual Effects at the 2013 Academy Awards, Rhythm & Hues Studios (who provided most of the visual effects for the film) was forced to file for bankruptcy on February 11, 2013, citing unfair competition from subsidized and tax exempt foreign studios. This sparked a demonstration of nearly 500 VFX artists who protested outside of the 2013 Academy Awards. Inside, during the Oscars, when R&H visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer brought up R&H during his acceptance speech for Life of Pi, the microphone was cut off. This started an uproar among many visual effects industry professionals, changing profile pictures on social media such as Facebook and Twitter to show the green key colour, in order to raise awareness for what is happening to the effects industry. In addition, director Ang Lee was heavily criticized by the community for not acknowledging their work in the effects-laden film in his acceptance speech (when he seemed to thank just about everyone else) and for earlier complaining about the costs of visual effects.
A trust named after Carnatic musician Irayimman Thampi has accused Bombay Jayashri's Oscar-nominated song 'Pi's Lullaby' of not being an original composition. The trust has alleged that the first eight lines of the song is a word-by-word translation of composer Thampi's renowned lullaby in Malayalam Omanathinkal Kidavo. Jayashri has denied the allegation. However, there are strong reasons to believe that the allegation is not without substance. For instance, see "The case of two lullabies" in Business Standard dated 16 March 2013.
The New York Times reported in 2002 on the similarities between the book by Yann Martel on which the film is based and "Max and the Cats", by Brazilian writer Moacyr Scliar, published in 1981. The book tells the tale of "a Jewish youth who survives a shipwreck and ends up sharing a lifeboat with a panther".
Life of Pi was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won four (more than any other film from 2012): Best Director (Lee), Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score. It was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and won for Best Original Score. The film also won awards for cinematography, film editing, sound effects and original score at several other awards ceremonies. In addition to the academy award, Ang Lee won best director awards from the Kansas City, Las Vegas, and London Film Critics. The film was awarded the Best Picture award by the Las Vegas Film Critics Society and was named one of the top ten films of the year by the New York Film Critics and the Southeastern Film Critics.
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- Thomas Faunce "Life of Pi's Acidic Island a Warning of Our Warming World. The Conversation. 27 January 2013 http://theconversation.edu.au/life-of-pis-acidic-island-a-warning-for-our-warming-world-11599 (accessed 27 Jan 2013).
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- [VFX protest at Oscars: images from the picket line + audio interview http://www.fxguide.com/quicktakes/visualeffectsprotestatoscars/]
- . The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/feb/26/ang-lee-visual-effects-life-of-pi. Text "Ang Lee under fire from visual effects artists over Life of Pi speech" ignored (help); Missing or empty
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- A Case of two lullabies, Business Standard dated 16 March 2013. http://www.business-standard.com/article/beyond-business/a-case-of-two-lullabies-113031500573_1.html
- Life of Pi: Is Bombay Jayashri's Oscar nominated song 'Pi's Lullaby' not original?
- Irayimman Thampi Trust alleges plagiarism
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