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Overall Rating
4.16

Awesome: 34.38%
Worth A Look53.13%
Just Average: 7.29%
Pretty Crappy: 4.17%
Sucks: 1.04%

6 reviews, 60 user ratings


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Pi
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by Rob Gonsalves

"A strong debut."
4 stars

Darren Aronofsky’s feature debut 'π,' which observes its 20th anniversary on July 10, follows in the tradition of other artsy first films like David Lynch’s 'Eraserhead', Shinya Tsukamoto’s 'Tetsuo the Iron Man,' and E. Elias Merhige’s 'Begotten.'

It’s short — mercifully short, we might say, while acknowledging its ornery brilliance — visually harsh, shot in grainy, high-contrast black and white that eventually rubs sandpaper-like against the eye. And it is entirely devoted to its own vision, its own interiorized world. It’s probably not coincidental that anguish and mutilation are on the menu in all four of these movies; you have to be a certain kind of viewer to want to watch them very frequently. Of the four, though, π seems the most interested in the world outside itself, even if only fleetingly and fearfully.

An exacting artist, Aronofsky has made only six films since this one — Requiem for a Dream (2000), The Fountain (2006), The Wrestler (2008), Black Swan (2010), Noah (2014), and mother! (2017). Many have been polarizing, and I was probably in the minority when I declared the frantic fable mother! the great American film of its year. Aronofsky’s art does not always work for me — I found Requiem and Black Swan pompous and conceived in bad faith — but he consistently takes such chances, swings so hard for the fence, that I can absorb and even respect the two out of seven films that didn’t land for me. π is a workout, no question, and not for everyone, but it has intellectual and spiritual fervor, and even when it stops dead for some mystical exposition, at least it assumes our intelligence (though also our patience).

The movie follows Max Cohen (Sean Gullette), a mathematical savant who thinks numbers are everything — are in everything, explain everything. He lives in a crappy, ant-infested apartment with a rickety computer he calls Euclid, which he uses to try to game the stock market. Instead, it spits out a 216-digit number, which Max disregards; then various folks ranging from Hasidic Jews to Wall Street agents descend on him. They all want what he knows; he doesn’t even know what he knows. This aspect of π is sort of a wry indie rewrite of the standard detective story, where the scruffy gumshoe is menaced by people wanting the MacGuffin or the dingus or whatever. Max is a gumshoe of number theory, and the MacGuffin is in his head. Then again, so are paranoia and migraines and, in the notorious but abbreviated climax, a drill bit.

The soul of π, though, isn’t in its thriller tropes (there’s a hectically-staged chase scene that’s as boring as any other chase scene) but in the scenes with Max and his old friend Sol (Mark Margolis), a math warhorse who got a little too close to the flame of numerical truth and had a debilitating stroke. Margolis is 78 now and has always looked 78, even 20 years ago in this film, and we believe him as an exhausted old man who has forsaken math obsession; we also appreciate seeing him as something other than a cold-blooded mobster. The two men sit and talk quietly in Sol’s equally rumpled apartment while they play Go or Sol feeds his fish. It’s top-drawer stuff, and proved that Aronofsky wasn’t just some hip hotshot but an artist engaged with his characters’ emotional readings. (Margolis has gone on to appear in almost every Aronofsky film since, like a lucky charm, except for mother!)

Max is surrounded by people, benevolent or very much otherwise, who want something from him; aside from Sol, the only person he has time for is a little Chinese girl who loves to throw calculations at him. She reminds him, I guess, of a time when his particular strange acumen might have been fun. Enjoyment, relaxation, a rare computer chip — people keep offering Max things to pull him away from his own obsessions, his own head. But he can’t, and won’t, be distracted. He is the damaged loner as outlaw artist, a theme Aronofsky has returned to again and again, or has at any rate lived in his own life.

Coming back to 'π' after his subsequent pieces puts them all into perspective — even the hornéd beast 'mother!,' which I would gladly recommend on a double bill with 'π' if it wouldn’t make you come after me with a drill.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=87&reviewer=416
originally posted: 06/25/18 16:22:13
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User Comments

10/05/18 morris campbell gripping decent into madness a great debut 4 stars
12/29/13 Marty Somewhat accesible math film which is rare. Agree style>substance but engaging and new 4 stars
7/23/12 Quigley A film that manages to make math interesting has my highest respect. 5 stars
6/20/09 Beefsolver Aronofsky achieves with a profound debut film as impenetrable as the number itself. 4 stars
1/15/09 FrankNFurter Huh?Incomprehensible, but visually stunning. Quite a mixture... 3 stars
4/16/07 Marko Excellent, grainy cinematography, unusual plot- worth seeing at least once! 4 stars
3/30/07 Edler Too cute and the ending was lame. 3 stars
3/27/07 fools♫gold I can't say it "made me think" as much as, well, half of the movies out there. 2/5 or 3/5. 2 stars
1/15/06 chris. i want it again 5 stars
5/12/05 Indrid Cold Mind-bending and disturbing. Intense, grainy b&w look is stunning. 5 stars
2/27/05 Linlymes real original ideas and very good camera and cut. pictures burn into your brain. 5 stars
1/08/05 Abbath More style than substance. Was just a bore, despite the interesting subject matter. 1 stars
6/12/04 Geoff Johnson Excellent movie, on multiple levels - worth multiple watchings 5 stars
4/30/04 Gray I know how max feels 5 stars
6/06/03 Manuel Vera A contribution to the mind from a brilliant perspepective 5 stars
3/30/03 Nicole Completely strange 5 stars
3/21/03 Skankin' inThePit excellent and origonal movie(up there with donnie darko on my list, but DD is my fav movie) 5 stars
11/16/02 Jason E UP there with Donnie Darko in my books 5 stars
11/04/02 Charles Tatum Weird 4 stars
9/09/02 Ramblin Wreck It was all right............Darren tries to make love to the camera which got really old. 3 stars
8/29/02 Hessian Totaly hypnotic. This movie is like crack. 1 little hit and it sucks you in. 4 stars
8/21/02 MaIniYaK excellent directing excellent story 5 stars
8/07/02 Jack Thompson mesmerizing 5 stars
7/30/02 erick great flcik, but how can u say one of the only good indie movies... screw u 4 stars
5/18/02 Film Afficianado most oiginal film i've seen in a long time. For $40k... incredible. Screw blair witch. 5 stars
4/02/02 Butterbean This is an empty movie that beatniks watch for artistic reasons. 2 stars
3/21/02 Mr. Hat (I'm Back!) This-is-so-cool. One of the few good independent movies. 5 stars
1/21/02 Spencer Lent This movie was wacked up. 3 stars
12/24/01 Cracked head I liked it, but it's not great. I rate this 3.141592653589793 3 stars
12/15/01 Ian Barr Along with "The Tenant" and "Pink Floyd The Wall", the best film about insanity ever. 5 stars
12/02/01 Monster W. Kung Interesting idea, but doesn't go far. Much style, just average substance. 3 stars
12/01/01 Jeff Wilson If this is independant, I'm never goin' back to Hollywood 5 stars
6/12/01 Tano g me gustaria obtener el número de 216 digitos... 4 stars
6/03/01 Basil Makes you feel like your going crazy with him. 5 stars
2/25/01 The Bomb 69 felt exhausted when it ended, bold and very original premise, not for most people (a shame) 5 stars
1/17/01 mike Best independent film since Clerk, this is a credit to independent filmmakers everywhere. 5 stars
11/08/00 viking An original but disturbing idea 4 stars
10/01/00 Madoc69 Not an easy movie but a very good one 4 stars
9/05/00 Boy In The Designer Bubble Bought the DVD, grainy picture but brilliant story makes it worth it. 5 stars
6/26/00 stranded on the Island Second-best movie of 99 (to Run Lola Run); Surreal and makes you think. Loved it! 5 stars
2/13/00 Shelagh Really unusual - a film that makes you work !! 4 stars
7/26/99 emperor great film 4 stars
7/21/99 danm Eerie, brainraping, and prophetic. Its like a cinematic drug. I have to see it again. 5 stars
7/14/99 J. Random Hacker Anyone else keep flashing back to "Snow Crash"? 5 stars
6/28/99 Steve Bashakus Beautifully paranoid and kinetic. I'm still twitching..... 5 stars
6/22/99 Elizaveta Must be watched again... 4 stars
4/14/99 Jon Jackson Great movie, loved the drill, his neighbor was fine. 4 stars
1/29/99 davebo great camera shots, loved the idea, very well done, superb dvd options :) 5 stars
12/01/98 Evil Buffy this movie was so cool. paranoid and terrifically shot. and of the neatest films i've seen 5 stars
10/23/98 grunter nice cinematography; dead-ended with cliche sub-Lynchian finale 3 stars
10/22/98 Ike Brilliant cinematography, but pretentious narration. Unrealistic, but nicely tense. 4 stars
10/17/98 Chris Very Fast Paced Dark Movie! 4 stars
10/15/98 aaron sias loved it 4 stars
9/30/98 Devin Mckay I enjoy a nice mindfuck every now and again 5 stars
9/28/98 Gamma Some of the story was hard to follow, but overall a terrific indie flick 4 stars
9/11/98 Melanie No surprises, blah, not impressed 2 stars
9/05/98 Gary Very strange but keep you interested 4 stars
8/24/98 The Capital City Goofball Didn't interest me at all. 2 stars
8/22/98 Mister Whoopee Sci fi inside someone's head. 4 stars
8/21/98 Angelika Was intresting to watch ("eye candy" if you will). But, I left feeling a little worn. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  10-Jul-1998 (R)
  DVD: 24-Apr-2001

UK
  N/A

Australia
  15-Jul-1999




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