Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Set Adrift

When a transatlantic liner sinks an Indian boy finds himself lost at sea with a bunch of his father’s not-so friendly zoo animals in Ang Lee’s whimsical adaptation of best seller Life of Pi. Our protagonist’s desperate struggle to survive his various misadventures is lusciously painted by Lee with some quite stunning CGi sequences, cinematography and his trademark confidently languid direction and buoying this lushness is an excellent performance from his young lead and two solid supporting turns. However despite (as far as I can remember) sticking quite closely to the events of the original novel it seems to have lost it’s edge allowing a slightly sickly sentiment into the script and subsequent performances or maybe it’s just leakage from the dazzling, knowing beauty of the film that seems to have softened some of the harshness out of this tale. Another classy Lee film that’s definitely a spectacle.

Kirk Douglas’ gurning and grinning performance as the archetypal man adrift, Ulysses, in the 1954 adaptation sets the tone for a lurid, cheap and cheerful retelling of Homer’s classic saga. The obvious highlights of Polyphemus, Circe & Tiresias are included in the adventure and though it’s budgetary restraints are always evident it’s swept along with some tidy direction and a bucket load of brio with Douglas accompanied by the similarly ‘large’ actor Antony Quinn. It’s good, frothy adventuring for the most part and even musters some menace for the final scene but it like, Life of Pi, lacks the emotional depth or boldness to address the darker aspects to the tale. Apparently this film kicked off the Italian Peplum industry that churned out innumerable sword and sandal epics and I can see why, old fashioned, quite good fun.

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