Making of Life of Pi - A Film, A Journey by Jean Christophe Castelli

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Making of Life of Pi - A Film, A Journey by Jean Christophe Castelli

Category: Entertainment
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: An intelligent look behind the scenes of what is a fabulous film, if only from one slightly dry view.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: October 2012
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN: 9781781166383

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Before I'd seen the film of Yann Martel's novel Life of Pi I knew the end result would leave me either wondering 'how did they make that?!' or 'WHY did they make that?!'. The fact I ended up watching it twice before the general public had their chance, and lapped up a repeat viewing within a fortnight, says it all. There's no plot spoiler in the fact that the creators left us with a visually dazzling, splendidly luxurious-looking piece of cinema, one that left me scrabbling for tiny faults to nitpick with and just acknowledging how brilliant the FX and acting were. And, as the resulting question was the right one, I am still interested very much in the answer - luckily for me this book provides it.

Castelli uses his insider-basis (he works for director Ang Lee on story editing, background research, etc) to provide us with more or less a linear route through the production of the film. He skims over the fact several directors tried and failed to get a firm grasp on both the project and the budget for it (he certainly doesn't name them) before taking us, with Lee and a couple of others, around the Indian locations, and through the process whereby the company was gifted a disused airport to live in, created the world's most superior wave tank, and lumbered themselves with a complete unknown, first-time actor and the need to create a CGI tiger to create a cinematic duo the like of which etc etc.

It takes what was for me a very interesting stance, for while I have a great fascination for film, I very seldom pick up such making-of books. I watch the making-of DVD extras, of course, very diligently, and this was notedly different - much more intelligent, comprehensive and without the levity or brevity of some such documentaries. It contains some extraordinary details - it might be very well known, but it passed me by, that the lead actor had to be taught to swim for the project that demanded he virtually live in a swimming pool for a year.

The pictures, and there are a lot of them, give you all the insider nuts and bolts of the production, but this doesn't have the feel of a coffee-table souvenir volume. It doesn't detract too much from my memory of the film, and I am sure I can still revisit it in years to come with nothing spoilt. In a way Castelli heightens different strands of the film, in the same way the 3D was set up to allow you to concentrate on a part of the scene of your choice. Therefore I'm now more aware consciously of several strands of the narrative that were there for me to weave together if I wanted - the fact that the two stories parallel his two parents' differences, for one. I think I can also predict a few more of the DVD extra deleted scenes, too.

If anything, however, this book is a little too high-falutin' - and like the film itself that is a minor criticism of something that certainly works very much as it should. Yes, Castelli quotes from his colleagues on the film, Lee on down (although never the star actor). But his singular point of view, together with his academic, non-patronising approach, didn't leave me with nearly as warm a feeling as the film. I had an immediate fondness for the cinematic Pi, Richard Parker and the whole shebang, and while this won't deflate that, I thought I'd find this equally admirable. I'm a lot more wise to how the brilliance was captured for the screen, but this seemed too official in the end (and it's a bit of a lame ending here) to deem film and tie-in book of equal quality.

The fact that I still give it such a high rating also says it all.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

A great look at the more general state of modern cinema - from all angles, official and general viewer - can be found with The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex by Mark Kermode. We loved In Glorious Technicolor: A Century of Film and How it has Shaped Us by Francine Stock too.

Buy Making of Life of Pi - A Film, A Journey by Jean Christophe Castelli at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Making of Life of Pi - A Film, A Journey by Jean Christophe Castelli at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Making of Life of Pi - A Film, A Journey by Jean Christophe Castelli at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Making of Life of Pi - A Film, A Journey by Jean Christophe Castelli at Amazon.com.


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