here). It was a 10am screening, with just me and two studio security guards in attendance.
Not exactly the ideal time of day and atmosphere for film appreciation, but when I walked out of the theater to rush back to my "regular" job, I knew I'd seen something special; something that elevated 3D filmmaking from a spectacle to be gawked at, like "Avatar," to a tool used to express an artistic vision. I valued its technical accomplishment, the performance of its novice lead actor, Suraj Sharma, and Lee's overall achievement of successfully adapting a book that most of Hollywood had deemed unfilmable.
I knew all of that, but I didn't really feel what the film had to offer. That is, not until I saw it again last night.
In the four months since I first saw the film, what stuck with me most was its beauty, particularly the scenes that melded ocean and sky, and the wonder of the world beneath the surface of the sea. With this in mind, I decided to see it for the second time at one of the "luxury" cinemas here in San Diego, where the cushy recliners would set me up to absorb Lee's wondrous canvas in comfort.
I'd yet to visit one of these fancy theaters and, I have to say, I was impressed by the one I chose, Cinepolis in Del Mar. How wonderful to walk into a theater lobby and see people milling about, drinking cocktails or coffee and chatting. No cattle herding through the snack stand lines; no sullen teenage staff upselling you popcorn or rolling their eyes as they tear your ticket stub. Finally, the movies are a place to be again. When I discovered I could order SweetTarts off the menu (the good kind, small chewy nuggets of sugary tang) and have them delivered to my seat, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
While my moviegoing experience was transformed by the theater upgrade, it was the film itself that transformed upon second viewing. The artistry and hypnotic beauty were still front and center, but since I'd already been introduced to it, it didn't steal every ounce of my attention as it did in round one.
In fact, I was struck by the volume of sheer, spectacular horror Lee puts Pi (and us) through before he winds up on the open sea with his hungry tiger companion. I was reclined, not in relaxed comfort, but in clutching anguish as I was transported to the depths of Pi's despair, then up and back again as he battled with the elements, the animals, and his own understanding of and belief in God.
After first seeing the film, I was bothered by the exchanges between the grown Pi (Irrfan Khan) and a visiting writer (Rafe Spall), which felt almost like a beloved uncle reading old-fashioned fables to an awestruck child. As I pointed out in my original review, I found these scenes simplistic and repetitive, if not somewhat condescending to anyone on the mid-to-upper end of its PG-range audience.
I was still somewhat uncomfortable with the tone of these scenes upon second viewing, but I was entirely unbothered by the simplicity of their content.
With an opportunity to tune in more closely to David Magee's script, it became clear to me: the act of faith actually is that simple. You believe because you need to. Or you don't. You can debate the fine points and break down your rationalizations for accepting or rejecting them, but in the end the decision to believe the "story" that, for you, makes your life meaningful really is as simple, and potentially profound, as that.
Once the end credits concluded and the lights came up, I was surprised to see nearly everyone in the theater still in their seats, casually talking to one another as the waiters quietly cleared the tables. No mad rush to the exits. No obnoxious cell phone conversations. My companion and I remained seated for quite some time discussing the film, relating it to our lives and, for me, drying my eyes.
If I had made the choice to actually rank my Top 10 films of 2012, I would most definitely be moving "Life of Pi" up the list after last night's screening. If you haven't seen it yet, please make sure to do so -- in 3D -- before it leaves theaters.