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If Math ran the World...

  • Dec 21, 2010
***1/2 out of ****

Darren Aronofsky's highly experimental first feature "Pi" is either a work of complex art or a maddeningly pretentious psychological thriller. This film may divide viewers in terms of how they see it, but there is no doubt talent to be seen in Aronofsky's little film. He deserves some credit almost automatically for filming the thing on such a low budget, and yet managing to end up with something so satisfying. Aronofsky is a twisted genius who wants to delve into the realms of human psychology in the most unique ways possible. He has already done it, and in many ways. He has done it with math, he has done it with drugs, and he has even done it with the subject of ballet. Yes, Aronofsky is an artist and by all means a genius. "Pi" was a sign of a new talent in American filmmaking, and Aronofsky has gone on to prove that he is a force to be reckoned with. "Pi" is a work of complex genius, and it presents our reality as maddening and torturous. The film is intelligent, but it has its flaws. Some scenes it could have done without. But for the most part, it is intelligently made. The minimal production costs pay off in the end, and "Pi" ends up being a very promising directorial debut. It's good to see that it was no phony. I do indeed find myself recommending "Pi". It is a good way to enter the void which is the stylized wonder of Darren Aronofsky. It might as well be preparation for the darker, heavier things to come in his career. Albeit, the more Aronofsky makes the better he seems to get. And that is a rare quality in filmmakers these days. Darren Aronofsky is one of the best directors of psychological madness living, and I feel that he should go on to achieve even greater things. I will support him through his near-failures and-even better-his successful productions. He is, in all honesty, an extraordinary man.

The film's character is Max Cohen. Maxwell is a number theorist who believes that nature is controlled by numbers. He also thinks that the mathematical constant known as "pi" has something to do with the stock market. Max has been trying to crack the code for years, although he is alone in his practices. Every other numerically-inspired human being around him continues to decay, leaving him to decode everything. His quest drives him to insanity, and we are treated to the later years of his deep dive into human psychology. "Pi" makes use of imagery rather than straight-forward story-telling, although in the end it DOES tell a story, and a pretty solid one too. I especially liked the end of the film, which I will not give away in an attempt to convince you to see it for yourself. However, I will assure you that the outcome is both thought-provoking and brilliant. Aronofsky challenges his character in every way possible. His character suffers from head-aches, and therefore must take medication. This medication is, of course, very strong. After taking it, Max goes mad. And we all know how much that helps in your quest to solve the ultimate mysteries and questions of mankind. "Pi" is a thoroughly entertaining film for its unique style and intelligent themes. I am interested in whatever Aronofsky chooses to cook up next, and will soon explore his entire career as my film watching days go on.

Sean Gullette is brilliant in the lead role. It isn't very often that an actor can make us feel the paranoia that their character is experiencing, and Gullette manages to make us as worrisome and paranoid as Max is. I find that to be something quite special; something quite special indeed. While Gullette is the only actor who truly shines, this is not the "Sean Gullette Show". "Pi" is more of the "Darron Aronofsky Show", and it explores his talents to endless, wondrous effect. This is more of a director's project than an actor's. The style and themes are what seem to be most key when it comes to this films success, although Gullette does a mighty fine job at playing a paranoid man in distress.

"Pi" is a rare thriller that manages to thrill us quite a bit. Thrillers these days tend to have either a lot of explosions or a lot of flaws; maybe even a lot of both. "Pi" is a new breed of cinematic thrills, and it entertains just as much as it should. The style of the film certainly helps to elevate it to high status, and most of the style is found in the visual department. "Pi" was shot in High Contrast Black-and-White Reversal Film. That means that it is, of course, black and white. This gives it a gritty, heavily psychological feel. It makes the intense scenes even more hard to watch, and makes the film feel all the more disturbingly, twisted brilliant. The eerie feel of the film is helped even more by a highly ominous original score by the brilliant Clint Mansell. This is the kind of film that I wished I had thought of, although it's a damn good thing that it was in the good hands of Aronofsky. This film has a good and ultimately unnerving feel to it. I love it. I highly recommend it to lovers of psychological thrillers with daring ideas and horizons. "Pi" is without a doubt one of these few films, and it's as wonderful as it should be. Very nice, Aronofsky. Very nice.

I cannot help but applaud what Darren Aronofsky has done here. This is his first feature and yet he has nearly pefected his vision of true psychological terror. Aronofsky is willing to ask the question: what is mind-numbing, terrorizing fear? I expect that he wants an answer, and perhaps none of us will ever know. But Aronofsky's film is special, as it can strike fear, confusion, thoughts, and brilliance into our minds in a mere 85 minutes. Every one of those minutes is fully absorbing. There was not a boring moment to spare. "Pi" is so interesting because it is so seldom seen. I can't begin to imagine why films like these are so rarely thought up, and why Darren Aronofsky has to be the man to take a stand in a time of a bleak lack of inspiration. Aronofsky has his inspiration, particularly Terry Gilliam's "Brazil", and more. But "Pi" is not a vision of the future. It is a vision of one man's interpretation of modern society, the past, and what is to come in the near future. I think that there is but one word that can sum all of that up correctly. That word is inventive. Overall, much recommended. And that's my two cents on the matter.

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December 22, 2010
I saw this one ages ago and it truly is a marvel.
December 22, 2010
December 22, 2010
you and I are in full agreement on this one. Excellent review! We now have revolving featured reviews but I am adding this one on the list. Thanks much and Happy Holidays!
December 22, 2010
Cheers, Will.
More Pi reviews
review by . November 27, 2008
Max Cohen is a loner by nature, a mathematical genius who is seeking to find numerical patterns everywhere. His life is consumed by patterns, and his lives his life reciting his assumptions and their evidence. Assumptions: 1. Mathematics is the language of nature  2. Everything around is can be represented and understood by numbers  3. If you graph the numbers of any system, patterns emerge Evidence: 1. The cycling of disease epidemics  2. The wax and wan of caribou …
review by . April 30, 2002
Pros: either highly intelligent or totally insane     Cons: n/a     The Bottom Line: A great study of film making     Two years ago I started writing movie reviews for Epinions, not because I thought I was a wise person or that I had any unique outlook to the movie scene. I wrote simply because I loved movies, have always loved movies and obviously always will.      Had I crossed paths with PI two years ago, I doubt …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Starring Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Pamela Hart
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Writers:  Darren Aronofsky, Sean Gullette

Product Description
A brilliant mathematician teeters on the brink of insanity as he searches for an elusive numerical code in this critically acclaimed schizophrenic thriller. Special features: commentary by director darren aronofsky and actor sean gullette deleted scenes interactive menus production notes and much more. Studio: Lions Gate Home Ent. Release Date: 02/18/2003 Starring: Sean Gullette Ben Shenkman Run time: 85 minutes Rating: R Director: Darren Aronofsky
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Director: Darren Aronofsky
Genre: Drama, Action, Adventure
Release Date: July 10, 1998
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Darren Aronofsky
Runtime: 1hr 25min
Studio: Harvest Filmworks, Artisan Entertainment
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