Sunday, November 25, 2012

Life of Pi and a Big Brazilian Cat

Ang Lee’s faithful adapatation of Yann Martel’s book is a feast for the eyes and for the soul, but Martel owes much to the Brazilian writer who first put a boy in a boat with a big cat.

Life of Pi, the movie, is a beautiful piece of cinema. Ang Lee’s version of Canadian writer Yann Martel’s 2001 book is a wonder to behold, especially in 3D. Bright sunrises, fluorescent whales, deep blue seas - and that tiger. Suraj Sharma does a tremendous job as the boy in the boat, having to act opposite a tiger who was never there until post-production. The visual effects for this movie take the art to a new level, and that is sure to be recognized come awards season.

The story takes us to a very primal place and has a spiritual undercurrent that may surprise moviegoers who have not read the book. Had Ang Lee based his movie on the original story that begat Life of Pi, a 1981 novel by Brazilian writer Moacyr Scliar called Max and the Cats, he would have shot a teenage Jewish boy adrift in a boat with a jaguar after a shipwreck, going from Nazi Germany to Brazil. Martel has acknowledged in his book that Scliar’s story inspired him, and despite calls of plagiarism, Scliar (who died in 2011) never took legal action against the Canadian writer as the stories’ similarities end with the boy in the boat with the big cat. In his book, Scliar chronicles the life story of Max Schmidt and his relationships with several felines, which symbolize his authoritarian father, Nazism, and his adaptation to Brazilian soil.


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