Sunday, April 14, 2013
Six months in a leaky boat
My viewing companion just said that he thinks that Spielberg really liked this movie. I should've added that Robert Zemeckis probably really liked it too. After all, it seems to be a little bit Forrest Gump, and a whole lot of Cast Away. I'll try not to spoil the reason for the movie's title, Life of Pi, as I want you to suffer as I have suffered, but suffice it to say that this is the story of a man's life. We get the broad strokes of his life at the beginning: the man's a genius, a college professor, born in India, and he's worthy enough and interesting enough to be tracked down by a white novelist guy. Another spoiler of a sort: apparently, the protagonist of our story was born in Pondicherry, which is where M. Night Shyamalan is from! Is this not where the finest Hollywood writing now comes from? At the very least, are we in for a twist ending? We just might be!
And so, the white guy walks around with the Indian guy for a while, fading into and out of the picture with alarming frequency. There will be green screens, my friend. Reminds me of The Dock Brief. I can't be the only one, can I? When suddenly... the Indian guy says "I will tell you how I came to believe in God." Or meet God, one of the two. Which is kind of a cop out to me, because the Indian dude said he met Christ when, on a dare, he went into a church to drink the holy water within. He also tried Islam for a bit, and Hinduism, of course. So the Indian guy met at least three gods. Also, his family owned a zoo.
Alas, the economics of the Garden of Eden aren't sustainable, so the family had to sell off the zoo animals to markets in Canada and the United States. Time to go on a boat trip, where they run afoul of Chef Gerard Depardieu. It's unclear when all of this took place, but it seems that it's supposed to be present day when the Indian dude's telling the story, and he looks like he's in his mid-40s or so... fifty! I was being too generous! He kinda looks like Javier Bardem, don't he? The point is, even though this seems to have taken place in the 1970s, there's no disco music, or an afro-wig in sight. I feel strangely cheated.
Then, one fateful night, during a lightning storm, the young Indian dude goes out on deck to watch the storm. He slips around on deck, doesn't shut the door behind him, and works his way towards the other side of the ship, where he sees a truly horrifying sight. The waves of the ocean are overwhelming the ship! The ship starts to sink. He runs back to warn the rest of his family, but they're already submerged. Long story short, he ends up in a lifeboat, but here's the twist: there are only animals in the boat.
Anyway, as you know from the commercials, it ends up with just a tiger and the kid in the boat. I won't spoil it any more than I already have, but I will say that their adventure together is very heartfelt and full of wonderful imagery, despite it being on digital video. I swear, one of these days I will let the waterworks flow more openly, and not just during the opening credits sequence of Life of Brian. One of these days.
The kid eventually does make it to land, in a plot development that even David Quammen would like. The kid finds an island that's inhabited by a bunch of meerkats. Needles to say, the kid and the tiger could've shown them a little more respect.
The kid eventually ends up in Mexico, and is paid a semi-unpleasant visit while in hospital. Hospital? Boy! This is a period piece! Two representatives of the Japanese ship company want to know if the kid's story is really true! Did he really spend all that time at sea with a tiger? They don't believe it. SPOILER ALERT: And so, like any good member of Hollywood pitching a story to the cold, unfeeling studio executives, he tells them a second tale. Basically the same tale, but the animals are now people who survived the ship. I learned this from my college education that it's either a metaphor or an isomorph. Probably leaning more towards an isomorph.
So, did this moving experience change my faith? Well, I'm not that good of an atheist, and I'm not terribly affiliated with any religion at the moment, but I will say that at times, God can be one mean, vicious bastard, and if he puts one of his believers through an ordeal like the one in Life of Pi, well, I can't help but respect that a little bit.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan
p.s. - Has James Schamus himself jumped ship? Let's hope not!