Monday, December 24, 2012

2012.12.23 — Lullaby for Pi: Movie Review

Have you seen the small independent film Lullaby for Pi? No? Well, no surprise. This joint Canada / France production (2010) has received a rating of 6.2 from a whopping 205 raters in IMDb. But, more interestingly, a total of 0 (zero) viewer and critic reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. I found a French critic's review: Nicolas Gilli, which is on a France-based web-page and is in, no surprise, French. Nothing in the (English) Wikipedia. A Google search will bring up a couple of reviews, for example, The Hollywood Reporter's castigation that LFP is
… a ludicrous romance so full of clichés and forced whimsy that it is nearly unwatchable.

Basically, this is a movie that for all intents and purposes, doesn't quite exist. I don't remember having heard anything about the movie, but came across it by accident while flipping through the movie listings on TV. And that is a shame! Okay, it hasn't gone completely unnoticed, as the tumblr people seemed to like it, and their blog is filled with images.

Synopsis: young brilliant musician goes into a deep depression with the death of his wife and stops music. Instead he spends his time in the hotel room where he first met her, waiting for her to call. A young woman, who doesn't want him to see her face and who lost several years of her youth to being in a coma, forms a friendship with him through the bathroom door. And, like magic, and with the help of the kindly chess playing hotel desk man, the two eccentric people tentatively and quirkily begin to live. He, again, she for the first time.

And it is the quirkiness that I can see being a thumbs down for some. Why? I've been struggling to articulate my thoughts, but it comes to what may be an odd split in the human population between those who delight in Magical Realism versus those who delight in cartoon violence or the un-magical realism of saccharine sentimental (happy / sad) movies. The emotional life of the characters is brought forward in the storytelling through exaggerated setting and character. So the young woman struggling to find her place in the world hides in the bathroom of the man having lost his place. Each have erected a wall between themselves and the world which, by the magic of life, is embodied in the locked bathroom door.

And thus we see a visual metaphor dance around the theme of finding/losing/rediscovering one's voice. The metaphor is re-enforced with the subplot of the young musician who has to struggle to keep his own musical voice while it is being excoriated by the good-intentioned father.

And, in the best of a magical realism typical of many Canadian writers, such as Barbara Gowdy and Margaret Atwood, the theme is explored in different ways. The young woman begins to find her voice using mute media: she uses film frames clipped from the movies she's paid by a theatre company to project and, with a kind of homage to Timothy Findley's novel Famous Last Words, journal writing on the wall of her loft that she would paint over until the day she met Sam…

This is a fun movie. The directing kept it light, and the performances by the leads are engaging and don't fall into maudlin sentimentality. Forest Whitaker as their unassuming spiritual guide was perfect in the role. The filmography is good and contributes to the story with its own subtle quirkiness. And the music is also excellent. As is noted, Charlie Winston contributes perfectly to the sound track, including Rupert Friend's extemporaneous blues/jazz 'hit' I'm in Love With a Bathroom.


Benoît Philippon
Actors: Andre Richards, Clémence Poésy, Colin Lawrence, Dewshane Williams, Forest Whitaker, Matt Ward, Rupert Friend, Sarah Wayne Callies

Finally, in the most peculiar and delightful of ways, LFP participated in a delicious as Pi fushigi on the day I watched the movie.

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