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A model presents a creation by Yohji Yamamoto during the Spring/Summer 2012 ready-to-wear collection show on Sept 28, in Paris. (AFP)
Lee breaks every rule in ‘Pi’ Scenes spectacular

NEW YORK, Sept 29, (AFP): Director Ang Lee says he broke every rule in “Life of Pi,” which premiered Friday, bringing the best-selling novel into stunning 3D life with a production featuring an unknown Indian actor, four tigers and the world’s biggest wave machine.
“There are a few classic advices in movies: never make a movie featuring animals, kids, water or 3D,” the Taiwanese-born American director quipped at the premiere, which was the opening screening of the New York Film Festival in Manhattan. “We ignored all (of them).”
The filmmaker, who won Oscars for “Brokeback Mountain” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” had to pull out all the stops to get Yann Martel’s 2001 novel of the same name on screen.
The story, centered around a shipwrecked Indian boy called Pi who survives in a life raft with a Bengal tiger, posed obvious casting difficulties.
“I remember thinking to myself that no one in their right mind ... How do you sell this thing?” Lee recalled.
His first solution came in the guise of Suraj Sharma, a hitherto unknown 17-year-old from Delhi who tagged along with his brother to the audition, then found himself being picked out of 3,000 others.
“It was my brother. He had to go to the audition and I went with him,” Sharma said at the premiere.

Wider
For the movie’s other key ingredients, Lee cast his net even wider, creating a Hollywood-financed, but international production that sounds almost as fantastical as the story itself.
The first part of the film was filmed on location in Pondicherry, India, the picturesque former French colony where some 5,500 extras were hired for the sumptuous scenes of Indian street life and religious ceremonies.
Then, because the entire second half of the two-hour movie takes place at sea, Lee went to Taichung in his native Taiwan to film in a specially designed wave-generating tank that measures 230 by 100 feet (70 by 30 meters) and contains 1.7 million gallons (6.4 million liters) of water. “We created our own Hollywood,” Lee said.
The results are spectacular scenes that lend themselves especially well to the 3D experience, with flying fish shooting out of the screen, and surrealist trips by the camera into a deep populated by luminous jellyfish and whales.

Having secured his human star and a number of backups, including a rude French cook played by Gerard Depardieu, Lee needed only to fill the main supporting role: the tiger.
The animal, who goes by the name Richard Parker, is mostly the creation of CG special effects. But the all-important physical references that provide a base for the wizardry were provided by four real tigers.
Animal trainer Thierry Le Portier, a veteran of big cat scenes in “Gladiator,” found three of the animals in France and one in Canada.
According to Lee, a big male named King was the main model for Richard Parker, while two females, also from France, were used to model the movie tiger’s more aggressive movements.
The “more docile” episodes, such as when Richard Parker is seasick, were modeled on the unusually cuddly Canadian tiger, Lee said. Sharma, playing Pi, said the water tank in Taiwan “began to feel like my home” and that his research into being a castaway included consulting with shipwreck survivor and author of “Adrift,” Steve Callahan.
But his portrayal of the intimate connection between his scared character and the hungry tiger was all acted in front an invisible beast.
“The boat was pretty empty,” he laughed. “There was no tiger.”

Beauty
Early reviews described the film as Oscar potential thanks to its beauty and artistic use of 3D.
“Summoning the most advanced digital filmmaking technology to deliver the most old-fashioned kind of audience satisfaction,” Variety said.
But there were thumbs down over what some critics saw as the story’s over-earnestness. “Torpid, preachy, faux high-minded and ‘prestigious,’” said the Village Voice.
Once considered impossible to make, the big-screen 3D adaptation of the bestselling novel “Life of Pi” opened the 50th New York Film Festival on Friday, marking another advance in digital filmmaking.
The movie’s director, Ang Lee, hit the red carpet at the big-budget movie’s world premiere, with the black-tie audience getting the first glimpse of the spiritual story of a boy stranded on a boat with a tiger. It kicked off the screenings of more than 160 films over 17 days at the New York festival.
One of the world’s most respected movie showcases, the festival typically emphasizes the art of cinema by focusing on the best films from the year’s European festivals rather than Hollywood-style premieres. But the event is still seen as an important step in gathering buzz as Hollywood’s awards season gets going.

More splashy world premieres than usual are on this year’s schedule, including “Sopranos” maker David Chase’s film feature debut, “Not Fade Away” and Robert Zemeckis’ first live-action film “Flight,” starring Denzel Washington, which will close the festival.
The 57-year-old Taiwanese born-director told the premiere on Friday night the film took four years to make and he joked about learning the hard way the difficulties of making a film in 3D predominantly set in the middle of the ocean portraying a host of zoo animals.
“‘Life of Pi’ was such an incredible story I just couldn’t help myself, I had to tell this story,” he said to audience applause. “This was an incredible journey for me.”
Early reviews posted on Friday were mixed. The Hollywood reporter called it “exceptionally beautiful” and appealing to diverse audiences. Variety called it visually stunning but lacking in dramatic tension and grit.
Lee told reporters earlier on Friday that he read the novel soon after its release in 2001, and found it “mind-boggling.” But he added, “I remember thinking to myself, nobody in their right mind” would transfer it to film due to the technical difficulties of filming the story.
Spurred on by its spiritual message, Lee agreed to make the movie and saw 3D as the only way to realize it, even before “Avatar” in 2009 broke through as a box-office bonanza for 3D movies.

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