Pi (1998) Poster

(1998)

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10/10
Indie film at its best
stharward15 May 2000
'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.
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Inventive, sharp, *different* cinema
Aidan McGuinness11 March 2002
Warning: 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.
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9/10
Finding God through the ancient language of Mathematics
cultovone9 November 1999
Pi is the oddest, hippest, most chilling account of the descent into the abyss.

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.
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9/10
A Flat Out Great Indie Film
Tarantinoesque15 February 2005
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.
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9/10
The best no-budget movie you'll ever see
room10211 March 2003
"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.

10/10
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9/10
not about math, but about obsession, paranoia, searching for answers never found
MisterWhiplash9 September 2006
Pi is the kind of movie I wished I could've seen in one of those dank art-house movie theaters in New York City, as it's practically gift-wrapped for the crowds. But it's not done with every shot lingering on the characters, soaking in minimalism in its black and white photography, quite the opposite. Darren Aronofsky is a filmmaker I first got into through Requiem for a Dream, which now years after I saw it I want to revisit again upon the soon to be released the Fountain and especially after now seeing Pi. Before with 'Requiem', I did like the movie a lot, but felt a little apprehensive about deeming it that old term 'masterpiece' as the editing, while ultra fast for a purpose, almost came off as too "MTV" for me. But years later, after hundreds of more films taken in, I'm ready for a second look. In this particular case, Pi is also the kind of movie that warrants a second look at the director's other films. His themes run just as much together as does his breakneck style. And it's not just to show off; he truly does get inside a psychology through subjective camera AND editing, to a degree that might impress Hitchcock, albeit with some whiplash.

Max Cohen played by Sean Gullette is the protagonist of the story, who's main foe is none other than the universe itself, in a sense, all through one number. Or rather, a series of numbers, one which might unlock the Stock Market secret for him. He doesn't even want to play the market, mind you, but the point for him- if one can follow- might be attributed to a repeated memory he has of looking at the sun as a boy, and soon looking past the shock of actually looking long at it. This is a very small device by Aronofsky but it works well to establish- and continue- this man's downward spiral. And spirals, by the way, seem to also figure into the film, as well as a secret technology firm (with a woman who reminded me of Condaleeza Rice look-alike), and especially a near undercover Hasidim ring where they need the numbers *in* Cohen's head to unlock some big secret to God. But even with all of this pressure, Cohen can't shake what's dogging him around, in his own cramped, wire-ridden apartment, with many bugs crawling around.

The key for this movie really is atmosphere, in the acting (if it makes you uncomfortable sometimes that's the point too, and it's probably the strangest performance of a lifetime for Gullette), the production design (that apartment and the subways), the grainy, spectacular photography by Matthew Libatique, the editing to be sure- which here, unlike the breakneck 'Requiem', does take a break from the cuts so quick they almost past subliminally (which isn't bad)- and the moody music that is so slight you almost forget its there. It even works for me, and this is a big plus, as someone who's not really interested in mathematics (worst subject in school), and even better as it drew me in to his obsessions with it. I really liked one of the early scenes between Max and his the friendly Hassidic man who explains on paper different numbers and their relation to parts of the Torah. And, in the end, it all comes down to getting engrossed through what the filmmaker's bringing in with this man. There is a sort of detachment from reality- that most of us would never touch much of this with a ten foot pole- but then again it really isn't. Aronofsky also makes a point of some hallucinations/dreams adding to the ambiance, skidding almost towards the pretentious, and thus creating a world all of its own in Pi for Max, and for us as well.

A film that I shall certainly seek out again when I can, if only to see if I can understand some things a little more (or maybe not as case might be), and to see such a powerhouse performance from Gullette. Grade: A
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7/10
Hard To Add Up....But An Intriguing Curiosity Piece
ccthemovieman-14 March 2006
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.
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10/10
Cohesive, stylish and innovative
wilywilliam11 April 2003
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.
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Genius!
quixoboy5 October 2003
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.
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8/10
An excellent mathematical sci-fi thriller.
Traska15 August 1998
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.
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1/10
Senseless, surreal, making-a-fool-of-the-viewer movie.
maurya k2k6 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, this movie has absolutely nothing to do with mathematics or rationality except the Greek letter pi, which is the number 3,14159265358..., the formulas the main character wrote on a piece of paper in the underground-train and the few statements he cited from famous mathematicians. But relating the number pi with this Jewish religion-thing and with the stock-market is such an absurd idea, I just do not know what to say. No person who has some idea of mathematics would EVER make such abstruse connections.

The viewers, who are so enthused by this film, were only totally blinded by the main character's fits and the "super cool" pursuing-scenes, from which I only got a head-ache.

After a certain time, the movie was only about the sick fits of the main character and these pursuing-scenes, which are totally a pathetic and a desperate way of trying to make the movie fascinating for the viewer.

The movie-maker probably tried to make the movie totally spectacular with the schizophrenia, the fits of the main character, the sickness of the main character in general, the shaking of the camera in the pursuing-scenes, the black-and-white picture. But it did not impress me, it only made me almost throw up.

And by the way, if you bore with an electrical drill into your head, you die or you get totally disabled for life. You do not get away with only losing your intelligence like the main character in the movie.

The average viewer is totally made a fool of, because the movie makes him think that movie-plot is really "intelligent", which it is not, it is just all fictive, incoherent, disconnected and senseless.

And finally, the main character is another totally surreal and unrealistic product of the movie-maker's brain or society. There is always this "thin line" between genius and madness, but it is only cliché which is always applied to all fictive or non-fictive "genius" personalities, but I find this cliché totally ridiculous.
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7/10
Ending
alyssong-121 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This was a strange and at times disturbing movie, but I strongly disagree with the statement that the director didn't know how to end the movie. The ending the director chose was very powerful (in my opinion). He was personifying Sol's hypothesis about computers: when they begin to crash they go in a cycle, and eventually realize their destruction, and end up spitting out their "ingredients" and putting an end to themselves. Max is like a computer. He goes in these destructive cycles with his headaches and eventually starts hallucinating. Max eventually figures out the magic number, but ends up destroying it as well as "crashing" (or drilling out in this case) the part of him (his computer) that is causing him such turmoil. The last time we see Max is when he is in the park, looking at the leaves in a tree looking actually happy. He isn't being torn apart trying to figure out the mathematical reasons behind life. I think the director had every intention to portray that. It was a very powerful ending, and a very well done movie.
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It's not so black and white.
Logos_Removed22 December 2002
This intriguing film reminded me of David Lynch's Eraserhead somewhat. The soundscape of the movie was very industrial in places and the metaphorical imagery used was reminiscent of the early Lynch film. Unlike Eraserhead however this effort has "student film-maker" written all over it, which is not to detract from the entertainment value of the movie.

The movie's protagonist thinks mathematics can provide the answers to the big questions, but finds out the painful way that it cannot. This is all illustrated quite appropriately within a hallucinatory milieu. Unfortunately is it all a bit too obvious unlike David Lynch who can have machinations within machinations to the point of indecipherability. That criticism aside, the lighting, sound effects and photography were all interesting and combined to provide a claustrophobic feeling and a sense of unrelenting futility.

To sum the piece struck me as the early work of a director who is on the up and up. I am looking forward to seeing some more of his work in the future. I enjoyed this movie despite its flaws and give it a 6/10 score.
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8/10
Great stuff!
smakawhat15 February 2003
Warning: 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 itself.

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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1/10
What?
Christopher Thomas21 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie honestly confused the hell out of me. Being someone fairly interested/talented in math and science, I was absolutely lost as to the entire mathematical/scientific storyline being completely bogus. After reading some reviews, people don't even seem to mind. 'It's fine the storyline makes no sense,' no, it's really not. That alone was enough to turn me off, but the bad sound (Was that what it was? The music and effects just really started to irritate me, who knows) and over-the-top acting just made it worse.

I'm all for independent cinema, in fact that's the career I'm seriously considering at the moment, but independent is NOT in any way, shape or form an excuse for bad. Writing a scientific, mathematically themed script with 100% bogus science and math is absolutely wrong. Film makers are expected to have done research and know what they are talking about. Pi simply fails, and takes too many cinematic risks that don't equate to a good movie, but rather a poorly thatched together piece. It just didn't work.

Lastly, the religion element was over the top and entirely un-necessary. Those scientifically and religiously minded are typically VERY averse to each other, even if it isn't always so you don't want to mix the two, and doing so in this movie I'm sure turned a lot of people off.
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Low key thriller that is interesting rather than intense or gripping
bob the moo28 March 2002
Max Cohen is a mathematical and computer genius who seeks mathematical patterns in everything. However he also suffers from intense headaches, dellusions and some paranoia. He looks into patterns in the stock market only to find his ability sought by both a Wall Street trader, Marcy Dawson, and a Hasidic, Lenny Meyer, who both want the code for different reasons.

Before I saw this I must admit I heard a lot of hype but no actual details – so I was half-expecting an intense `Usual Suspects' thriller mixed with maths. So I was a little disappointed at first. However once over my preconceptions I was able to settle into this. That is, if you can `settle into' something like this. The story is clever it plays on paranoia and delusion – in fact it may or may not happen. Even at the end of the film I was left wondering if Max was a genius or if he was a nutter and all this was in his mind. The film uses this paranoia to create some good scenes and the thumping base music ups the ante a bit.

It's not an easy film to enjoy in the traditional sense, but it is an experience. The subject matter is different enough to be interesting and the telling is clever – I for one can't wait to see what the director does with Batman: year one, it certainly won't be a camp Joel Schumacher film anyway!

Gullette (who also co-wrote) is good in the lead and is totally convincing. Mark Margolis is also good and it's good to see him in different roles, I know him from his strong role in Oz although he's not as good here. The rest of the cast are good – but really the star here is the director as he manages to put us in Max's mind and involve us in the paranoia so thoroughly that we're not sure what is real and what isn't.

Overall this isn't as masterly as the hype suggests but it's different enough and compelling enough to be more than gripping for 90 minutes.
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1/10
The physical pain
haggar4 December 2001
I am sure not many real scientists have survived watching this movie. I personally felt the stupidity literally painful. It hurts even more because it's interspersed with interesting mathematical concepts. I am sad that a great opportunity has been completely obliterated. Certainly, a movie about patterns in Pi, about the Fibonacci numbers, the golden section and (not directly mentioned, but hinted at) fractals, has to be interesting. Right? Well, not really. This movie proves that if you have a certain quantity of daftness in, you can spoil it. "Pi" in particular, had way too much of it.

This movie resambled a highschool jock that read a few columns in a magazine, and is trying to impress the girls with it. Some of the girls will fall for it, no doubt.

To me, it was irritating and stupid.
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Things With No Real Answer Should Never Be Questioned.
tfrizzell6 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Darren Aronofsky's directorial debut is a hypnotic film that is seemingly just as infinite as the mathematical formula it is based on. Tortured math freak Sean Gullette sits at home in a New York City apartment and tries to figure out a system to predict the stock market. He believes that Pi holds the answer to the otherwise impossible question. Gullette continues to consult number theorist Ben Shenkman, but the closer he gets to what he is looking for the more mysterious Shenkman becomes. Gullette keeps on running into Orthodox Jew Mark Margolis and a representative from a high-powered Wall Street firm (Pamela Hart). It appears that Gullette's work could lead to monetary success for some and the possibility of finding God for the Jewish community. The film is an intensely interesting production that toes the line of cinematic excellence. Made in a month on a miniscule shoe-string budget, "Pi" makes a real case for most memorable film of 1998. The film's huge success (considering the amount of time and money spent on it) would lead to more potent work from Darren Aronofsky ("Requiem for a Dream"). 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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1/10
Not a Modern Prometheus
chocolat_oasis28 June 2003
Like Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein", "Pi" aims to be a modern update to the greek Prometheus and Icarus myths. It warns against scientists venturing into certain areas of knowledge. Unfortunately one point where "Pi" fails miserably is in its depiction of modern science: the days of early greek scientists working mostly alone is long gone, modern science is very much a social endeavor. "Pi" however sticks to the rogue scientist image embodied in the loner mathematician Max Cohen. Its modernization seems to be limited to technological aspects: there's a lot of technobabble about patterns in the number Pi, computers becoming sentient etc. All good natured fun in "Star Trek" but the seriousness with which it is brought in "Pi" made its inaccuracy really annoying. Perhaps the movie's makers should have used Shelley's approach to avoid embarrasing themselves: just mention all that technology is dangerous and you don't want to talk about it to avoid corrupting the reader/viewer. But then again, what would have been left in this movie? Nothing much I'm afraid, Max doesn't seem to be a very interesting character, his relationship (or lack thereof) with his female neighbour is only briefly touched upon etc. Overall "Pi" is repetitious, contains too many scenes of Max just vomiting/banging his head into something/... and is just plain boring.
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1/10
Overrated, silly sci-fi movie
funkyfry3 November 2002
I still can't believe all the people who tell me they love this movie. To me, it is the best possible example of style taking over a film, because this is a film with no real substance: instead of a plot, we are simply supposed to believe that this guy has gone insane because of math (with a bunch of pictures from some book to illustrate the possibility) and that he's being chased by mad yiddish people. This is so silly I don't even know how to say it. There are so many fevered dream type sequences that they lose any impact their dynamic visual style gives them by the end of the film.

I was not surprised to see that older voters on IMDB have not rated this film so highly -- they have seen enough movies with quality and substance to know when the director's just putting a mickey over on the audience. Most older people also appreciate it when a movie actually has a story. This movie was made to impress a bunch of people who never understood any math in the first place, but would love to believe they did. For those who have studied esoteric mathematics, this movie is an insult to our intelligence.

A java drama with no heart.
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1/10
THIS won an award?!?!
DrPhoton2 May 2005
This movie SUCKED! It took 90 minutes of my life that I'll never get back, and for what? Some really bad acting, and zero plot. As a physicist, I expected at least a modicum of insight about mathematics to be discussed in this movie. Instead, it was all fluff and psychobabble. There was no real point to this movie. The guy didn't even portray a schizophrenic very well.

The protagonist kept talking about looking for structure in the stock market, which is a chaotic system. This is hardly an original idea. People have tried to apply structural models to the market, but the market responds to such stimuli by changing in unpredictable ways, so that the rules upon which models are built are no longer valid. Any decent mathematician (and our protagonist is supposed to be a genius) would've already known this. Oh well, no one expects movie makers to have any real brains, anyway, right?

But this movie didn't compensate its lack of mathematical intrigue with ANYTHING else - it was just a bunch of meaningless dialog between characters too shallow to be even worth caring about - that is, when the viewer wasn't being subjected to miles of footage of the protagonist picking his nose (literally!), or some equally idiotic and boring behavior.

As far as movies concerning math, a MUCH BETTER movie is "A Beautiful Mind." If you're looking for a movie about crazy mathematicians, save your time and money and go to see "A Beautiful Mind" instead.
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An artsy B&W film that can appeal to only a narrow audience.
TxMike4 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
My studies and career have been intimately entwined with mathematics and numbers. I like numbers, I understand numbers, they make sense to me. So with the many favorable comments on this movie, titled after that fundamental measure of a circle's circumference to its diameter, 'PI', I went into this eagerly. I found it on Netflix streaming movies.

Overall it is a big disappointment for me. Sean Gullette is the central character Max Cohen, a New York non-religious Jew, who is also a mathematics genius. Graduated from college at 16, a PhD at 20.

But as his voice-over tells us, as a young boy he was told not to stare at the sun, but he did anyway when he was 6. Some time later, as the bandages were removed he began slowly to see light again. And he also started having headaches. All this presumably contributed to his math genius and his borderline madness.

The meat of the story comes when he is using his computer at home and it spits out a long string of numbers, perhaps 200 or so, maybe a bit more. Then in a chance meeting with a Hasidic Jew, learns that there is a rumor that a mysterious 216-digit number matched to symbols in the Torah spells out the name of God. So Max begins to wonder if somehow his computer had spit out that number, now on a paper he had discarded.

So we follow Max as he gets confused, or angry, and yells at everyone around. Followed by a woman who wants his codes for predicting the stock market. All in all not a very satisfying viewing for me.

One thing fun was seeing veteran actor Mark Margolis as Max's former graduate adviser Sol Robeson. Margolis had a key role in the TV series "Breaking Bad" as the wheelchair bound and mute member of the Mexican drug lord family.
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1/10
Painful to Watch
ShannonCS14 March 1999
On a recommendation, I rented the video 'Pi' and forced myself to watch it, having to stop the video several times. I think I would have experienced less pain having my wisdom teeth extracted, than watching the 85 minutes of this grainy, psychedelic mess. The film tries to be deep and profound, and I'm sure many people buy into it, and will say I missed the point. Anyone with any knowledge of science in general and is willing to call things like they are, is likely to see how superficial and false the film is. Thrown together with the gritty, black and white visuals and strange camera angles, is a continuous throbbing techno beat, and the dabble into religious mysticism, medical problems, mathematic theorems, and mental illness. I'm sure the film makers hoped this mix would make Max's quest for answers and his journey into madness seem a revelation. I found the film disturbing and slow moving. However, if you're one that likes to dig for meaning that isn't there and can believe a mainframe computer is made of several keyboards and old TV sets tied together, then by all means see this film. My only recommendation is don't make the mistake I did; which was seeing this film sober.
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1/10
Boring, Overlong, and Pointless
sm78922 July 2006
The premise starts off interestingly and could be good if it were properly developed, but the story could have been told in 30 minutes maximum, probably less. The movie looks like a film student's attempt to create some MTV version of 1940s film noir.

After 10 minutes, you keep waiting for the story to develop, but it never goes anywhere. All you see is endless repetition, both visually and musically, if you can even call the score music. I watched it to the end only because a good friend recommended it, but so little actually took place, that I found I could read the Sunday Times at the same time.

While the film was made in 1998, the computer complex looks like something from the 1970s which just adds to the lack of any believability. There isn't a character you can take any interest in, other than Samia Shaoib who happens to be gorgeous, but she does no more than make a cameo appearance.

I like creative films and look for ones that are outside of the Hollywood mainstream, but this sure doesn't qualify. If you want to watch a thoughtful, unusual, intellectual, magnificently executed film, check out What the Bleep Do We Know.
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3/10
Pi should score no higher than 3.14
Daniel McCarty28 July 2001
I'd heard about this movie after reading an article where a formula was discovered to let users calculate the nth digit of pi without having to calculate any of the previous digits. As interested as I was to see this movie is about as dismayed as I am after having seen it.

This movie contains all the right elements--pi, randomness, number theory, stock market chaos (the theory, not the traders) and the players that would likely be found in those fields. But like your mother's cut-up spaghetti, none of the ends tie together in this movie.

The movie is shot in grainy, high-contrast black and white. Some may call it stylistic; I thought it was plainly harsh on the eyes. There's a reason Hollywood has pursued different film types since the days of Buster Keaton. According to the commentary on the DVD I rented, the director stated that he wanted to "let viewers see this movie from the perspective of Max's brain." I think a better question is why anyone would _want_ to get in Max's paranoid, delusional, headache-prone brain.

The film attempts to bond together the Kabbalah (Jewish numerical mysticism), the stock market fluctuations, pi (and its randomness) and Nature's cycles. But like cheap glue it fails. The subplot of Wall Street thugs bent on discovering a market forecaster is both unexplained and implausible. The supercomputer Max has apparently built from discarded computer parts is barely possible, and strangely prone to a few stray ants. One funny moment comes when Max's former teacher, Saul, explains to him that the 216-digit number spit out by his computer before it crashed was a form of silicon consciousness. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be funny. The only plausible plot in this movie is that of the Kabbalah number theorists, but the movie spends more time explaining who they are than what their mission is about.

In the end, the movie Pi leaves as many questions unanswered as there are digits of the number left to compute. Unlike Conspiracy Theory and Enemy of the State, two paranoid movies which give credence to conspiracists, Pi offers no explanations for its unfathomable conjectures. I was simply left to wonder why I wasted the last 85 minutes of my life.
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