The world premiere of Ang Lee’s “The Life of Pi” (November 21) will open the upcoming 50th New York Film Festival (September 28 – October 14), the first 3-D film to do so. (Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” played as a 3-D work-in-progress last year.) The NYFF has already announced its closing night film, Paramount’s “Flight,” directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Denzel Washington, which also marks a mainstream booking for the often high-minded Fest. Of the 25 or so films in the main program, the galas are often more accessible fare.
Lee also screened Cannes entry “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” 12 years ago to close the fest, and opened it with “The Ice Storm” in 1997. Thus Lee joins master auteurs Robert Altman, Pedro Almodóvar and François Truffaut as the only directors to have opened the fest more than once.
Lee wowed exhibitors with footage from the film at CinemaCon in Las Vegas in April, as distributor Twentieth Century Fox made it clear that they had high holiday and awards expectations for the film. Based on the global bestseller (7 million copies sold), the film boasts the right elements: globally popular literary source; heart-warming family story from an A-list Oscar-winning director (“Brokeback Mountain”); and epic VFX. Technology finally made the film possible. The CinemaCon “Life of Pi” footage looked stunning: a ship in a violent storm, a zebra leaping into a lifeboat, a shot of Pi Patel underwater watching the ship holding his family sinking into the depths, his power struggles with a Bengal tiger on the boat, and a scene with thousands of flying silver fish. Lee also participated in a rousing conversation with Martin Scorsese about how to shoot in 3-D.
In 2009, the Film Society of Lincoln Center conducted a complete retrospective of Lee’s work at the Walter Reade Theater. Other opening night selections include Luis Bunuel’s “The Exterminating Angel,” Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran,” Almodovar’s “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” Mike Leigh’s “Secrets and Lies,” Stephen Frear’s “The Queen,” and David Fincher’s “The Social Network.”
“’Life of Pi’ is a perfect combination of technological innovation and a strong artistic vision,” says Richard Peña, Selection Committee Chair & Program Director, The Film Society of Lincoln Center. “Ang Lee has managed to make a deeply moving, engrossing work that will delight audiences as much as it will astonish them.”
See trailer below.