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As a 5 minute music video Pi would be great. As a 45 minute student
film it would be a solid effort.But it needlessly allowed itself to grow
into a full length feature film, without enough substance to justify even a
mere 85 minutes.
Plot? Main character Max is obsessed with numbers and is trying to "decode" the world. That is, he studies nature's patterns believing them to be a gateway to the meaning of life (and stockmarket trends). Max has very little interaction with other people. He has multiple paranoid locks on his apartment door and spends most of his time crunching numbers on his computer. Oh, and he is plagued with agonizing headaches.
Pi is shot in a high contrast black-and-white film, has quick editing and lots of techno music. It all perfectly conveys Max's paranoid frantic thoughts. But until the final scene, nothing ever evolves in the movie. The story is at a stand-still, consisting mainly of Max occasionally narrating his new theories, Max having a migraine, or Max walking briskly down the city sidewalks. There is a subplot with corporate monsters and a religious sect each trying to exploit Max's talents, but these scenes felt like they were tacked on to fill out the running time.
For the record, I am not a fan of movies that contain lots of explosions-yes, I can think. But after awhile Pi seemed very gimmicky, especially the hyperactive camerawork.
"But it's just so darn indie!", people tell me. Well, that's not what they really say. But I bet that's what they're thinking. Anyway, I give Pi a 5 out of 10. Worth seeing once for its unusual presentation, just don't get your hopes up too high.
Oh yes, my favorite part of the movie is when Max's mentor criticizes Max for being obsessed with finding the number 216. The older guy tells Max that if he wants to find the number, he will make himself see it everywhere (216 feet from here to the end of the street, 216 steps on a flight of stairs, etc.). "you will have ceased to be a mathematician, and become a numerologist!". That made me chuckle. And if any of your friends are astrologists or numerologists you might laugh, too.
"Pi" is an amazing independent films. Darren Aronofsky had never made a
feature film and was barely able to scrape together the $60,000 needed
to make this film. Despite this pitifully small budget, he managed to
make a remarkably watchable film AND it caught the eyes of the 'big
boys'--and soon he was given $1,000,000 for his film! While not quite
as insanely successful as "The Blair Witch Project" (which came out the
following year), unlike the filmmakers of this other project, Aronofsky
has gone on to greater things--including the wildly successful and
critically acclaimed "Black Swan" as well as "The Wrestler".
Describing the look of the film is VERY difficult. Sure, it's cheap but Aronofsky managed to get past this by using black & white and deliberately making the print very grainy--giving it a wonderfully surreal look. I am not exactly sure how he did this but it worked well. And, because he wasn't able to use top equipment, it has a bit of a homemade look--which I was able to look past. Much of this was because the plot was so wild and surreal as well as very stylish.
Describing the plot...well that's even MORE difficult! It's a strange tale about a man who is on the edge of losing his mind. He is convinced that everything in nature and life can be quantified and explained through mathematics. And, given that you can find the correct mathematical formula, you can predict and understand EVERYTHING. So Maximillian spends nearly every second of his waking day devoted to this all-encompassing task. He avoids relationships, is very unkempt and is a miserable excuse for a human being. And, eventually it all begins to take its toll as he begins to hallucinate and experiencing excruciating pain in his body and brain. What's next for this incredibly strange man with his seemingly impossible task? See the film!
This is a very, very difficult film to rate. It gets very high marks for originality and it is entertaining. However, it's NOT a film for the mainstream. The average Joe would probably find it all just too weird and too confusing. But, if you want something different and are patient, it's well worth seeing.
How this piece of art-house schlock ever came to be seriously respected is totally beyond me. Darren Aronofsky's big claim to fame (along with Requiem for a Dream), features Sean Gullette as an obsessed math genius determined to find a pattern in the inner-workings of the stock market, I guess so that he can get really rich. It's implausible that an individual as devoted to "ideas" as he claims to be would be so motivated to apply his talent to such a parasitic end, but hey, I guess audiences don't think brilliance is cool anymore unless you use it to hit the big time, which explains the obsession with the Las Vegas card counting geniuses from MIT. Aronofsky's style isn't quite as obnoxious as it would later be in Requiem for a Dream, but it's certainly obnoxious all the same, preferring to film his subject with grainy BW photography and lots of film-schoolish trick shots and fast cutting. Aronofsky ultimately fails to heighten the tension to the extent that he so clearly wishes, he strives for profundity, but Pi remains a simple (albeit moderately clever) thriller, nothing more. The scenes with Gullette and his mentor are well done and kept me interested despite the repetition.
I think there were good concepts in this movie about Math and Number Theory,
but the scenes with his hallucinations and drilling into his head were
Watch Naked Lunch if you liked this movie.
********SPOILERS******* Max Cohen, Sean Gullette, is obsessed with
numbers. A mathematical genius who earned a PHD at the age of 16 has a
theory about the universe and wants to prove it to his own
satisfaction. 1. Math is the language of the universe. 2. Everything
around us can be understood by numbers. 3. If you graph a number of any
system patterns emerge, therefor patterns are everything in nature.
We're told by Max at the beginning of the movie that when he was a little boy his mother warned him not to stare into the sun because it would hurt his eyes, but Max did. He stared so long into the sun that he temporarily went blind. This may be the reason in the movie "Pi" why Max keeps getting terrible headaches and why he's constantly taking medication to relive them.
In his apartment in New York's Chinatown Max built Euclid a powerful computer that he feels can prove his theory. Using the stock market as a model Max tries to prove that even that can be deciphered by his calculations and feeds stock quotes into Euclid to prove his point by predicting their rising and falling in the future.
Patterns are everywhere in nature, Max says, even in the stock market. One afternoon when Max puts Euclid to it's final test to see if his theory is correct the computer crashes. Before it did it printed out a long string of numbers that seemed to make no sense at all to Max who threw it in the garbage.
Hurt that all that he did to prove his theory went up in smoke, Max goes to see his former mathematics and psychics professor Sol Robeson, Mark Margolis, to get some support and sympathy.
When Sol hears that Euclid printed a list of numbers before it crashed he gets very excited and asks Max how many numbers, 100, 1,000 216 how many? Max told Sol that it was all meaningless to him and that he threw it away. Later sitting in a diner Max runs into Lenny Meyer, Ben Shenkman, an Hasidic Jew who's also interested in numbers in the interpretation of the Kabbala. Lenny then tries to get Max interested in the mysteries of the Kabbala. Max doesn't realize at the time but later in the movie when he's saved from a gang of Wall Street goons by Lenny and his Hasidic friends that the number of God in the Talmud is exactly 216 digits! The number that he so foolishly discarded after Euclid crashed! The same number of digits that Sol gave him about how many numbers did his computer print out before it blew. Max, before he found out just what that number meant, starts to realize that there was something in what Euclid's last communication was but that he stupidly threw it away. Going back to the garbage where he threw the paper with the numbers away Max finds that it's long gone.
Earlier in the movie "Pi" we were introduced to an executive of a Wall Street firm Marcy Dawson, Pamela Hart, who was constantly pestering Max to lend his knowledge and services to her firm. Always ignoring and trying to avoid her things changed but after the crash of Max's computer Euclid. It's when Marcy offers Max something called a Ming Mecca chip, which is classified by the US government, Max suddenly becomes interested. Max needs that chip to restart his computer and find out what that important number that he so foolishly threw away was.
With everything set Max starts up Euclid and after some hesitation the elusive 216 digit number comes up on the screen but for some reason doesn't get printed so Max writes it down on a piece of paper and programs it back into the computer. With Euclid giving out information Max then sees that he can predict stock prices ahead of time. It's now that Max realizes that Sol has been keeping this information about a 216 digit number that can interpret all the patterns of the universe from him all these years.
Going to Sol's apartment to confront him about what he found out and why Sol tried to keep him from finding it out, Max is told by a nurse who answered the door that Sol passed away the day before. In Sol's apartment Max sees papers on which Sol wrote about what the same elusive number, God's number, was and what it meant and it seemed that the stress of all that work on Sol's part cause his death.
Max finally realized, what Sol did years ago, that there is some knowledge that is better kept to itself for it's too dangerous for anyone to pursue.
Very weird and at the same time interesting film by Darren Aronofsky about math and what math has to do with the working with the universe and how someone can become so obsessed with it that it can destroy him and everyone else that he comes in contact with.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
-may be a spoiler-
Pi. Wow. Just by the title, one can tell how silly this is. This is a film that is trying too hard, which is why it became such a popular movie in the cult genre. I often find that, when I am talking to someone about movies, and they say that "pi" or something like it is their favorite film, I know what they are trying to do. They want me to think they are intellectuals, or different in some way or another. However, they are far from it, like "pi". I am not some of the people that wrote negative reviews on the movie because they thought it was unrealistic or didn't make sense or whatever. Rather, I am saying that I can understand what Aronofsky was thinking, and what he was trying so desperately to do, and I saw right through it. Should I call a movie good simply because it is different? Absolutely not. That is not what makes a film good.
David Lynch is my favorite director. He is able to inspire some sort of fantastic feeling in all of his films. He understands the film medium and knows how to create a world that is so distant yet so familiar by looking below the surface of about every environment imaginable. He has proven the fact that, as Stan Brakhage puts it, "the eye is an extension of the brain".
Now, why is "pi" a failure? Because it is trying to create by distorting things the wrong way, to the point where it becomes ridiculous. The most obvious example being the grainy, black and white cinematography. Does the movie really need to be excessively grainy? No. Of course not. And one may think of it as expressionistic or meaningful, but I don't. I just think that Darren Aronofsky is trying to be a member of a certain group of underground filmmakers, which is understandable because it is his first feature.
If you want to see a film that is less accessible but more powerful than pi, see Eraserhead. I understand that everybody links the two, but maybe it is for a good reason. As for Aronofsky's latest film, Requiem for a Dream, I think the same way. Sure, the acting is magnificent, but step back and look at the film. With Requiem, Aronofsky is TRYING to upset us, and does it by constantly and constantly sending us spiraling down with the characters. Sorry, but I dislike that motive as well.
the movie has some guidelines that follow the mathematical path, though strangely interpreted. It resembles the Lynch series, ("Eraserhead" actually), though Lynch uses more colour... I recommend it to all the freaks (lest they should go nuts like Max...) and to the movie freaks, that like to admire pure art. the number i've written is PI, with the precision of 216 decimals... and don't fool yourselves, it doesn't have any pattern, it just runs infinitely...
Darren Aronofsky's Pi is definitely a unique and innovative film. Starring a genius mathematician who has found the numerical key to the stock market, Pi takes you on a wild black and white adventure through his struggle against forces who want to use his discovery for their own purposes. Aronofsky's style becomes evident throughout the film as he uses not only the obvious black and white color scheme, but unique editing and camera techniques that contribute to a kind of surreal atmosphere and the very distinct feel of Pi. The first question is: why did Aronofsky choose to go black and white? I think black and white has two major advantages. First of all, now that Hollywood color cameras have become so good, modern color films please the eye but look less realistic. They are saturated with bright, vibrant colors that make evident the use of predetermined lighting setups and look too crisp and beautiful to be real. This can be avoided by reverting to black and white as Aronofsky did. Secondly, if used deftly, black and white brings out the contrast of lights and darks, which looks more visually appealing. Photographers often shoot in black and white because it brings out this pure contrast, without the viewer being fixated on color, and Aronofsky follows suit. We best see the beauty of black and white in the opening scene, when Max is lying face-down on his desk. The shadows on his face stand out against his silvery eyelid, which is the only moving thing in the picture. This image feels and looks very attractive, and hooks the viewer in so that he is interested in what this film is about. I think the use of black and white was successful with Pi. Besides the black and white color scheme, Aronofsky uses original editing techniques in Pi. Whenever Max Cohen, the protagonist, takes his pills, we hear the cap on the pill container popping, him saying things like `200mg penicillin, marinol, 1mg dihydrogen mezolate.', fast-paced techno music, and the pills as they are swallowed. We see flashing, fast-cut images of pills being taken. This scene is repeated throughout the movie and serves as a kind of constant repetition that keeps the viewer familiar and in rhythm with the movie. Another example of Aronofsky's inventive editing is the scene in the subway, when Max pokes his own brain with a pencil. Every time he touches the brain, a sharp, high pitched buzzing noise ensues and the screen flashes white. After a while, the white screen dissolves into an image of an oncoming subway train. This scene provokes a kind of disgusted, `weirded-out' reaction in the viewer that could not have been created had it not been for Aronofsky's editing. The editing of Pi contributes to its very different feel, and both the pills and the brain scene add to what makes this film different from any modern Hollywood thriller. A particular scene that I find demonstrates great mis-en-scene is the one in the subway, when Max is walking hesitantly towards what seems to be his own brain sitting on the stairs. It is set up symmetrically, and the ceiling supports on either side of Max vanish into a very clear, even horizon line. It is at first a long shot, where we can see Max's hesitant movements and body language from a distance. The white pillars in the subway station contrast sharply with the dark floor. Then, as Max moves forward, we can distinguish his features and the screen becomes black with his jacket and pants, and when he kneels down to examine the brain, his face is lit strongly by studio lights. All the while, suspenseful synthesizer rhythms are playing in the background. This scene has a bizarre atmospheric tone to it, and is very characteristic of the entire film. The great mis-en-scene and editing of Pi fit it into the Formalist category. Although the action scenes, such as the one where Max chases a photographer out the subway and into the street, are shot with a shaky camera, every angle seems calculated to provide exciting visuals rather than to document events realistically. When the movie mellows out, such as in the numerous scenes in Max's apartment, the camera rarely moves. Instead of panning around, Aronofsky simply changes our view of the action. This is more quiet and subtle, instead of having so much Blair Witch-esque movement. Also, the fast cuts in the pill scenes were definitely predetermined and Formalist. Overall, I think Pi is well put together and that its Formalist shots are beautiful. Pi is a great example of the best things that come from low budget independent movie making. Aronofsky proves to us that ideas are more important than money, and good acting more interesting than special effects. It's a pity mainstream Hollywood ignores this time and time again. With its grainy, flashing, black and white textures, beautifully put together scenes, and fresh editing techniques, Pi is an innovative masterpiece of underground film.
Jim Jarmusch famously resents having his films referred to as 'quirky' by critics. Yet, it seems to me that many independent films, including "Pi", have little else going for them. Perhaps the development of rich dramatic films by independent producers has spoiled me or corrupted me. Didn't David Lynch do all this stuff in "Eraserhead" in 1977? Black and white, crooked cameras, troubled close ups, vague and humorless dialogue. Come on. I can understand how the new generation of math obsessed computerites can relate to the hero's psychosis over formulas, but I thought it was boring and very 'done'.
While visually stimulating and never boring, PI is essentially an empty stylistic exercise. The filmmakers were very wise to keep it to 85 minutes; if the film were longer, it would quickly become unbearable. Besides, David Lynch has already made this movie. ERASERHEAD is also an empty stylistic exercise, but it works better than this film does. PI was not a bad film, but I was disappointed. The number pi doesn't really even figure in the end - I got a bad feeling it was just a 'cool' symbol the makers thought would market their film well, like the bat symbol. It worked on me.
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