Rating: 8.8/10 - Excellent
Welcome to the first review in our series focusing on the films of Darren Aronofsky.
Pi is Aronofsky's directorial debut, which he made fresh out of film school. It was made for only $60 000 with the director choosing to shoot in black and white. It starred Sean Gullette, who has not really been in anything noteworthy since. It was sold for $1m and grossed over $3m. It won Aronofsky the Directing Award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, the Gotham Open Palm Award and the Independent Spirit Award for Best Sccreenplay.
Director: Darren Aronofsky. Screenplay: Darren Aronofsky. Story: Darren Aronofsky, Sean Gullette and Eric Watson. Producers: Darren Aronofsky, Eric Watson, and Scott Vogel. Cinematographer: Matthew Libatique. Editor: Oren Sarch. Distributor: Artisan Entertainment. Starring: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman and Samia Shoaib. Running Time: 83 Minutes.
Few films are this original and well-made as Pi. The plot is highly intelligent. If someone tells you Pi is too confusing, they are probably insulting you by not giving you a chance to watch and to understand the film. I will admit that things could have come together a little more clearly.
Max Cohen, a mathematician and computer genius, finds himself pursued by Wall Street traders and a Hasidic cabal in this award-winning film. He is "onto something". It was very clever for the film makers to make Max unsure of and, in fact, almost sickened by his research. He is fascinated with mathemativ but that which he is studying is "bigger than him" even though he cannot be certain of what it is. Mathematicians rely on logic and on fact. Therefore, it becomes plausible that Max could be troubled so deeply by the uncertainty around his special project.
It's not a linear movie, which helps it to be unnerving and interesting. Aronofsky proved with this debut feature film that he is a gifted director. He has a great understanding of what disturbs most movie-goers and, I assume, a rich imagination. He is a brilliant writer. The dialogue in Pi is excellent. The images are unlike any that I have seen in any film. Since this film, perhaps only in The Fountain, has Aronofsky used images as effectively.
The soundtrack is exceptional. It's amazing that this film was released in 1998 and yet its score could fare well at a Tiesto concert.
Sean Gullette eithers acts exceptionally well in this film or he plays himself. Seeing that he has been in barely any films since, I cannot pick one possibility. Either way, he evokes a man "with a brain under strain", with the kind of quality that Robert De Niro did in Taxi Driver.
The supporting characters fit in with his character brilliantly. Mark Margolis is awesome as his teacher, Sol Robeson. Ben Shenkman is brilliant as Lenny Meyer, a scholar of Judaism, who finds him.
The mathematics may become ludicrous for many viewers but I believe Aronofsky has actually created a believable world of mathematics for us. He does not go through the subject in massive depth but he makes interesting references to popular concepts such as the Fibonacci sequence.
When I first saw this film, I was inspired to read more about mathematics. It is unusual and brave for movies to look at a subject such as that which so many viewers may normally be "turned off" by because they find it challenging to understand.
Verdict: Pi is a brave film. Its overall story of does become slightly tiring but the journey that Aronofsky takes the viewer on is original and entertaining. He proves that film can make a person feel irrespective of its subject. This is a special debut from a talented and challenging director.
Pi is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray.