|KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) -- It's been a fairly satisfying month for your intrepid film reporter as the movies (and the theater) produced several offerings that not only entertain, but also feature spiritual insights. Along with a transfixing cinema version of "Les Miserables" (it gets its own column later this month), I was moved by the realization that thoughts of God were still a part of the consciousness of some storytellers.
'The Life of Pi'
"The Life of Pi" is a probable contender as Best Picture come Oscar time and is also the most visually stunning film of the year. Like Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," The Life of Pi bedazzles with CGI visuals that add to and support the film's viscerally emotional impact. As with Mr. Malick, filmmaker Ang Lee is unafraid to bring the subjects of God, faith and the seeking of spiritual fulfillment to the cineplex.
The film concerns a 16-year-old Indian boy whose passage to a new life in Canada aboard a freighter ends in a shipwreck. He is left to fend for himself on a life raft with only one other passenger -- a Bengal tiger.
This vibrant and esoteric work of art doesn't promote one religion over another. It does, however, what so few films do: It suggests that we become aware of spiritual matters and rely on our faith when the conundrums of the day overwhelm.
Days before I left for a press junket in New York, I had the opportunity to interview Oscar-winner David Magee, the screenwriter of "The Life of Pi."
BOATWRIGHT: "I know the film wasn't intended to proselytize, but as a follower of Christ I found it full of Christian symbolism."
MAGEE: "Good. We were hoping it would speak to people of faith. But this is also a film about storytelling. It's about the way we deal with the chaos in our lives. And the meaning behind the journey. It can be seen as having different lessons for different people.
"Ang and I are storytellers at heart. We love the different journeys that people go on and to be able to express the lessons they learned on those journeys.
"For instance, if you want to see the tiger as something more than just a tiger, I think you can. You know, Pi is an innocent. He's grown up in a protected world and now he faces reality not just from without, but from within. I think you can see elements of Pi in the tiger, elements Pi is unaware of so far."
BOATWRIGHT: "What were you hoping viewers would take away from the film?"
MAGEE: "I look at it as a sort of Rorschach test. After going through this journey with Pi I think people will have different interpretations. What actually happened to Pi on that sea adventure? How much of it was true and how much of it was Pi's mind playing tricks on him? I hope by the end of the movie, they've enjoyed a beautiful, entertaining story and on their way home, they find themselves talking about how they see the movie."
Okay, I was hoping Mr. Magee would profess a devotion to Christ and a desire to point moviegoers to the path, not just a path. But I was pleased that his work and the film adaptation resonated with spiritual and life-altering subjects. As for the all-roads-lead-to-salvation theory, I will quote Jesus in John 14:6: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Didn't mean to turn this into a sermon, but see what the film did for me? Whatever the filmmaker's intent, the film causes reflection. I get excited about a film like "The Life of Pi" because it is different and it does cause one to ponder that which will last.
A number of years ago Kathie Lee Gifford (then Epstein) and I attended Oral Roberts University, did a play together and became friends. Indeed, it was Kathie Lee who, a few years later, introduced me to the producer of "Days of Our Lives," which led to a 25-year association with the TV-biz union AFTRA. (That's also another column.) Skip ahead 30 years: I interviewed Mrs. Gifford via the phone. Days later during my trip to NYC for the "Les Miserables" press junket, I had the opportunity to see a Broadway production of her play "Scandalous."
Two-time Tony Award nominee Carolee Carmello ("Parade," "Mamma Mia!") stars, with the book and lyrics by Kathie Lee Gifford (music by David Pomeranz and David Friedman) about evangelist and founder of the Four-Square Church, Aimee Semple McPherson. Before women had the vote, Aimee Semple McPherson became the most celebrated and controversial woman of her generation. But the play is not about promoting the Four Square denomination or the Pentecostal movement. I assure you the production is not about proselytizing, but rather a sincere look at someone seeking God's forgiveness, His guidance and His pleasure. Continued...