Armond White: Come Back, Little Buddha
Too much digital technology negates God's miracles. Pi rejects his father's advice, "Religion is darkness. Don't go through life accepting blindly. Begin with thinking rationally." But Lee seems to accept that pragmatism through his rational approach to 3D spectacle. In order for the film's premise to work, it needs the inspiration of a true cinematic artist, not someone literally popularizing a prize-winning book. Lee is ambitious (look at his far-flung filmography-the gallimaufry of a middlebrow who subscribes to theNew York Review of Books) yet he is also far too cautious to exult in cinematic phenomena.
Life of Piis a movie for those people-and there are many-who don't appreciate the style of visionaries such as Bernardo Bertolucci, John Boorman, Brian DePalma, Leos Carax, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Paul W.S. Anderson, Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou, John Moore, Olivier Megaton, Wes Anderson, Steven Spielberg and Wong Kar Wai. How else to explain the unjust dismissal of Bertolucci's magnificent 1994Little Buddha, which combined the modern search for faith with the historical marvel of Buddha's enlightenment? When Bertolucci's contemporary 35mm scenes shifted to 65mm for the ceremonial splendor of the period flashbacks, the transition in detail, grandeur and luxe could make a viewer gasp-and grasp the essential richness of faith. InLife of Pi, Lee's prosaic approach to the boy's adventures from Titanic-style storm to a floating island of meerkats exposes his basic uncinematic nature. He's such an innately dull storyteller that he ends the film with a monologue where middle-aged Pi (played by Irrfan Khan) asks, "Which story do you prefer?" I'd prefer the shorter one we never got to see.
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