Celebrating ‘Pi’ Day the only way I know how

Sean Gullette in Pi (1998)

Pi (1998)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

8.5/10  R

As a movie buff, I figured “Pi” was the only way to truly celebrate 3/14. Happy Pi Day!

8:37 p.m. Write a review of “Pi.” It’s only 85 minutes long. If it were any longer, I might go insane too. With its contrast of bright white and pitch black, Clint Mansell’s screeching techy score, and head-jerking cinematography (thanks, Matthew Libatique!), I was the one getting a headache. But it’s totally worth it.

Schizophrenic, Jewish mathematician Max Cohen (Sean Gullette) lives in a cramped apartment in New York’s Chinatown. Max, with his social phobia, tends to stay in his high-tech (well, for 1998…) computer room. In black and white, it’s hard to tell exactly what sorts of gadgets he has in there (that’s your excuse, but really you wouldn’t know if it was in full color and al the gadgets were labeled). When he begins searching for the ultimate pattern, a number that unlocks secrets both in science and in Judaism (the Holy Grail, if you will), Max slowly descends into madness.

The first feature from my favorite auteur, Darren Aronofsky (“Requiem for a Dream,” “Black Swan,” “mother!”), “Pi” was the start of a beautiful career in neo-noir. He would continue to bring back the actors, cinematographer, composer, screenwriter, sound mixer, etc. etc. from his premiere effort. And, besides “The Fountain” (what a complicated piece of work that was), all have had incredible success. Since “Pi,” Aronofsky has been proficient in giving us tragic and beautiful endings.

Sean Gullette is eerily brilliant as the troubled mathematician. For some reason, especially in black and white, we can buy into his schizophrenia. We just don’t doubt it. He’s that good. And his unique narration (almost necessary, with only a small amount of dialogue) is spot-on. Mark Margolis, one of those actors Aronofsky keeps bringing back (every single one, including “Noah”), is great in a limited role as Max’s unofficial numbers guru.

Sean Gullette in Pi (1998)

Mansell’s epic score is the constant backdrop for the entire film, a consistent piercing in your ear. By the time the movie’s over, you start to think you might have the schizophrenia. It’s genius filmmaking.

Aronofsky’s script (written with help from Gullette and Eric Watson) incorporates time-honored techniques for suspense, some Hebrew, mythical references that only a classically learned scholar could understand, and nearly enough numbers to reach infinity. More than that, though, Aronofsky puts us in the passenger seat as Max drives himself insane. We feel for him. We want to do something to help.  But we can’t. Instead, we just enjoy the ride.

“Pi” is on Blu-ray and DVD. Or you can watch it on VHS like I did.

3 thoughts on “Celebrating ‘Pi’ Day the only way I know how

  1. Its also on Netflix and is just what I’m looking for tonight; something different. I wonder how many blog reads you’ll get as Life of Pi related searches?

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