Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pi (1998)

(Image from IMDB)

Pi (1998)

Darren Aronofsky's first film (and he has only made three so far in a ten year span) is an interesting indie film. Shot in black and white, it tells the story of a mathematical genius named Maximillian Cohen (Sean Gullette) who notices numerical patterns everywhere in the world. He works with a homemade supercomputer in his apartment to try and find a pattern in the stock market. Max is also beset with a mental condition that causes him to hallucinate and blackout - this condition is intrinsically linked to his mathematical prowess. Max works in isolation, but he is friends with his old mentor Sol (Mark Margolis), and is often engaged in conversation by his curious neighbours. He also draws the attention of a Jewish sect and a Wall Street firm who are interested in his research. When his work leads him to a mysterious 216 digit number, he realizes that he has stumbled upon something big, something other people are desperate to acquire. Is the number something holy, or something fundamental in the Universe? Max's paranoia takes over as his severe blackouts and hallucinations continue, blurring the lines between reality and imagination.

It sounds really interesting, and it is at many levels, but I just didn't find myself getting into it all that much. Which is weird, because my own synopsis makes it sound like something I'd be completely into. It's a good film, very stylishly put together by Arronofsky, utilizing some visual tricks he would put to equally good use on his follow up film, the brilliant Requiem for a Dream. The harsh black and white photography is distinctive and gives the film a weightier feel. And Clint Mansell's music is, as always, phenomenal and in tune with the story - I may not want to own the soundtrack, but it's great and fitting music. The film is well made; it takes an interesting setup and weaves an often surreal tale that focuses on an obsession and an unraveling mind while drawing upon ideas relating to mathematics and its significance. Most of the performances are merely adequate, but star Gullette is a standout with his frightening (though strangely unsympathetic - or maybe I'm just cold hearted) portrayal of a tortured but brilliant mind.

'Pi' is worth seeing. Even though I didn't particularly enjoy it, I can't really highlight any serious flaws with it. I guess it's just one of those things where the cumulative effect of the film's constituent elements just doesn't work for me. It might for others though, and I always recommend decent indie films because inferior mainstream crap gets seen way too often; films like this deserve a larger slice of the viewership pie.

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