“All we have is difficulty,” director Ang Lee told Entertainment Weekly in last week’s Fall Movie Preview issue describing the challenges of “Life of Pi,” his adaptation of Yann Martel’s best-selling novel. “Water, kids, animals and 3D. Everything you should avoid in the movie business. I thought it was unmakeable, even though it’s very inspiring.”
Lee ain’t kidding. To boot, the film, already described by some an an early Oscar contender, has no stars in it outside of small appearances by Gérard Depardieu, Irrfan Khan and Rafe Spall (all of whom are hardly stars; despite early rumors, Tobey Maguire is not in the film). Starring unknown Indian actor Suraj Sharma, “Life Of Pi” tells the story of an Indian boy named Pi, a zookeeper’s son who finds himself in the company of a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a Bengal tiger after a shipwreck sets them adrift in the Pacific Ocean.
Early footage astonished audiences at CinemaCon earlier this year and the first trailer looks absolutely spectacular: as if Lee has raised the bar on 3D the same way Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders and James Cameron did with “Hugo,” “Pina” and “Avatar.” And why not? While Lee is perhaps known as a dramatist for films like “The Ice Storm,” “Lust, Caution” and “Brokeback Mountain,” people tend to forget he’s an eclectic and dynamic filmmaker who has pushed forward fight choreography and motion capture with films like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Hulk.”
Another vote of confidence comes from the discerning programmers of the New York Film Festival. They’ve chosen the film to open the 50th annual NYFF. A few new photos from the film are above and below with one familiar one at the very bottom. “Life Of Pi” lands in theaters on November 21, but we’ll have a peek at it rather earlier as NYFF runs Sept. 28 through Oct. 14.