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'Pi' is independent filmmaking at its best. Without the constraints of the
studio/corporate system, Aronofsky and Gullette created a film that is
bizarre, intelligent, and unlike anything that came out of Hollywood in the
1990's. Who would have thought to blend Wall Street, the Kabbalah, computer
science, Go, number theory, and the most fascinating number in the universe
in a solute of obsessive-compulsive, paranoid genius and then strain through
gritty B&W cinematography and hyperkinetic editing? The mixture is
definitely not for everybody, but I certainly loved it.
Plus the soundtrack (featuring Orbital, Clint Mansell, Aphex Twin. Gus Gus, Spacetime Continuum, and other techno talents) just flat-out rocks.
Pi is the oddest, hippest, most chilling account of the descent into the
Following mathematical clues derived from an analysis of the stock market, Maximillian Cohen begins his descent into madness as he attempts to discover the nature of everything through the peculiar numerical entity known as Pi.
Thrilling enough, but then combine with generous amounts of Kaballistic mysticism, black and white footage and a soundtrack like an audible fractal, and you have a sensory snare which drags you along for the ride into Max's impending breakdown.
Obsession has never been so exciting.
Pi is an utterly gut-wrenching, mind expanding phenomema. If you have ever wondered about the universe, God or the nature of insanity, Pi will take you where you don't want to go.
"Pi (1998)" is, without doubt, the best no-budget movie I've ever seen.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky with a ridiculous budget of $60,000 - which I
first thought was a mistake in the figures, since I couldn't believe such a
movie could possibly be made with that amount of money.
Most of the cast and crew later re-united to make "Requiem for a Dream (2000)" - one of the best movies made in the last few years. Like many others, it was "Requiem" that made me find "Pi". It took Aronofsky only 2 movies to become one of my favorite directors, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for this young and promising writer/director.
The movie stars Sean Gullette, which co-wrote the movie with Aronofsky and Eric Watson. You might recognize him as Arnold (Marion's old partner and shrink) in "Requiem". Gullette is perfect in his role and does an amazing job here. It's a shame we don't see his talent in more movies.
Mark Margolis (Mr. Rabinowitz in "Requiem") is excellent as Max's mentor and all the other cast is doing a great job too.
Like in "Requiem", technical aspect is top-notch: Excellent black-and-white cinematography (Matthew Libatique) and the innovative use of the Snorricam, lightning, editing (Oren Sarch), and music (Clint Mansell, frontman for Pop will Eat itself).
The director's commentary for this movie is fascinating. After hearing it you'd appreciate the effort and heart that were put into this movie a lot more.
Look for guest/cameo appearances by Samia Shoaib (the nurse in "Requiem") as Devi, Max's nextdoor neighbor; Clint Mansell (the movie's composer) as the photographer; and Abraham Aronofsky (Darren's father) as one of the men delivering the suitcase at the door.
One last word. While some aspects presented in the movie - such as the Hebrew numerology and mathematical concepts - are correct (that is, the explanations of Hebrew numerology are not made-up; That _doesn't_ mean I actually believe in any of the meanings attached to them), I suggest you to use your suspension-of-disbelief instead of trying to find logic and mistakes in them.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After seeing "Pi", you realise that a lot of Hollywood producers should be
automatically fired. Why? Because you can make a great film like this for
only $60,000 whereas turkeys like "Waterworld" cast tens of millions of
dollars. Go figure.
"Pi" is about the obsession of maths genius Max Cohen (Sean Gullette), trying to find a number, a mathematical connection, that underlies all things but particularly the stock market. His obsession however begins to drive him nuts, with constant headaches and paranoid delusions (or are they...).
What's most striking about this movie is it's *different*. It isn't really comparable to any other movie I know, in terms of plot or of style. Aronofsky shows an incredible ability to work with a budget and yet still produce a visually striking movie - the movie doesn't suffer from being shot in fuzzy black & white. The paranoia of the man character is enhanced greatly by the use of a "snorricam" - a camera mounted to the body so that the viewer is attached to Max as he walks. Sharp, extremely kinetic cuts add to the frenetic energy and display what we would later see in "Requiem for a Dream". The whole intense, brooding nature is helped by the black & white imagery never allowing for any colour to seep through, enhanced by the fuzzy dream-like quality of the movie that reflects Cohen's delusions. It's no wonder that Aronofsky came away from Sundance as the Best Director for his amazing work here with such limited means.
The plot is interesting but the number Cohen seeks (which is not Pi - Pi is just used because it is a universal invariant like that which Cohen wants) isn't the centre of the movie. It's about obsession and how, as Max's friend points out, it can drive you to see things everywhere. Sure there are technical inaccuracies in it, but it's played with an assured sense of conviction, ably acted by unknown Gullette.
"Pi" is very interesting because it stands far out from the crowd. It's not one for those who think "Pearl Harbour" is the way films should be made - it's too different for that. A great debut for a director, who went on to surpass this with his superb next project, "Requiem for a Dream". 9/10.
This screenplay must have been turned down one hundred times before someone would finance it. I don't blame them. However, what could have been a travesty was saved by great acting, directing, cinematography, and sound. This brilliant/bizarre film turns a genius's quest to find the code for Wall Street into an adventure that engulfs all of human existence, and God. A brilliant example of how proper film making can turn straw into gold. Some viewers may be put off by the bizarre fits the main character faces, or the intrusion of complex mathematics into film, forcing the viewer to think, but if you watch this film, you will be rewarded a unique movie-going experience few other films will give you. This film gives you a look into the mind of man plagued by the genius he was given.
I have yet to come even close to fully appreciating the sheer artistry and
complexity of Darren Aronofsky's stunning mathematical/sci-fi thriller,
"Pi". Watching this film, one can tell from the subdued effects, grainy
black-and-white filter, and guerrilla-style filmmaking that this must be a
low-budget independent film - NOT to try and downplay its impact, as many
independent films can clearly surpass any typical Hollywood movie, in terms
of style and subject matter.
"Pi" is a perfectly concrete example of how the relative absence of special effects, explosions, etc. can still help create an engaging, and thoroughly unique viewing experience. Overflowing with intensity and hyperkinetic camerawork, this is a frightening roller-coaster ride of a film; despite clocking in at less than 90 minutes, "Pi" is by no means short on resonance - but rather leaves a heavy feeling of exuberance and fascination with the material that lasts long after it's finished. At the same time, though, people who aren't as open-minded to more obscure, abstract films like this would be, I think, surprised. This is not as complicated or bewildering a film as I had expected. If one can be able to focus intently on the story, the result is rewarding, and doesn't provide for much head-scratching. Its style seems rather modern, rather hip...at times it reminded me of "The Matrix" (which, ironically, was released the FOLLOWING year) what with its slick techno musical score and its flashy opening credits.
To shy away from this film simply because of its math content is to be completely shallow and ignorant. The way it handles the material is a whole lot more interesting than you'd probably think. Like "A Beautiful Mind", "Pi" is an instant classic that serves to re-awaken my erratic interests in my poorest subject, mathematics. It's original, it's interesting, and above all - genius.
Now here'a film that is "not for all tastes," as the cliché goes.
"Strange" doesn't quite cover it but it is not that bizarre that you can't figure out what's happening. Director-writer Darren Arokofsky made a name for himself with his second movie, Requiem For A Dream, and this was the young filmmakers' first effort. It was made a tight budget since he was an unknown, but that's part of the attraction. This is grainy black-and-white, and so is the gritty story and most of the characters. The unique look fits the story.
It's not a story that is going to please a lot of people - an almost-demented math wizard trying to figure out stock market codes and two groups hounding him trying to cash in on his brainpower. One is trying to use him to make big money in the market and the other is trying to decipher ancient Jewish texts and thinks our mathematician can help. Meanwhile, he wants no part of any of these people.
Our hero, the numbers freak, thinks the entire world revolves around numbers. Everything in the universe, he thinks, can be figured out through number codes. Not only is he wacked and paranoid but so is about everyone in here. They all have strange ideas. Innovative camera-work makes the story even stranger. In fact, it's that photography that makes this DVD a part of my collection
If you're looking for something different here and there, I would give this curiosity piece a quick look. (It's not a long movie.) Overall, I thought this "added up" to an intriguing film, but if you give it a try and hate it, don't blame me.
I am generally wary of movie portrayals of scientists and people who are supposedly scientific geniuses. It seems that most movie-makers are not scientifically inclined and never manage to do a convincing job. Pi, however, is a very interesting movie and Sean Gullette does a reaonably good job of portraying a genius on the edge of insanity. My fears that this would be another typical bad science movie were quelled very quickly, never to return again. Of course, they didn't get all the details down pat, but most of it was believable (or close) and some of it was correct. Comments on science aside though, I think this was one of the more interesting, and certainly one of the most original, movies I have seen this year.There are provocative metaphors hidden (well, not very deeply) throughout the movie (esp. the bugs), and the subject is so completely novel that it is really worth seeing. In conclusion I would say that if you think a movie about number theory would be boring, in regard to this movie you would be wrong. If, like me, you think a movie about number theory would be exciting but probably done badly, then you will have to accept that this movie is not really about number theory, but about a number theorist. As far as the execution goes though, you needn't worry about it, it is a pleasant relief from the usual.
The predecessor to Requiem for a Dream, this is arguably more stylish and engaging. This is helped largely by the simply outstanding soundtrack. Aranovsky's use of a haunting yet modern score binds the movie together perfectly, aided by some fantastic cinematic techniques that disorientate the audience in time with the music. The character narration is also a great cohesive tool, with the deadpan delivery more than matching the tone of the piece. This film is not as beautiful as Requiem, nor does it have quite the same gutwrenching effect, but nonetheless, this is still some film. If you like your movies very hollywood then this is not for you; but if you like stylised innovation, then you have to watch this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Filmed in grainy black and white, we enter the world of recluse
mathematician Max Cohen (Sean Gullete) who is working for a brokerage firm.
Max is hired to find a way to predict the stock market. What's his
theory??? All life in the universe is subjected to patterns, and that
nothing is just random but based on a series of formulas, calculations,
patterns, and that if this is true the market has one. However, the closer
Max gets to finding answers, the more insane and mad he seems to be getting.
An older mentor warns him that his obsession will kill him, but it looks
like that might not be the only thing. Max ends up getting contacted by a
Jewish Kabbalah sect who is trying to decode the Torah and can't help but
see the similarities to his findings with that of their higher teachings.
Also another brokerage firm is set on capturing his formula for their own
greedy interests. Finally it seems the apex has hit when Max discovers that
the pattern involves something more powerful and higher than he can imagine,
and it may be an answer that could be bigger than life
A low budget GREAT concept and PERFECTLY acted little film that will leave the viewer guessing of its outcome. Tense action a good simple thrill ride. Get a good story, good actors, and a good script and you can't fail no matter what the budget.
Rating 8 out of 10
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