User Reviews (594)

  • stharward15 May 2000
    10/10
    Indie film at its best
    'Pi' is independent filmmaking at its best. Without the constraints of the studio/corporate system, Aronofsky and Gullette created a film that is bizarre, intelligent, and unlike anything that came out of Hollywood in the 1990's. Who would have thought to blend Wall Street, the Kabbalah, computer science, Go, number theory, and the most fascinating number in the universe in a solute of obsessive-compulsive, paranoid genius and then strain through gritty B&W cinematography and hyperkinetic editing? The mixture is definitely not for everybody, but I certainly loved it.

    Plus the soundtrack (featuring Orbital, Clint Mansell, Aphex Twin. Gus Gus, Spacetime Continuum, and other techno talents) just flat-out rocks.
  • cultovone9 November 1999
    9/10
    Finding God through the ancient language of Mathematics
    Pi is the oddest, hippest, most chilling account of the descent into the abyss.

    Following mathematical clues derived from an analysis of the stock market, Maximillian Cohen begins his descent into madness as he attempts to discover the nature of everything through the peculiar numerical entity known as Pi.

    Thrilling enough, but then combine with generous amounts of Kaballistic mysticism, black and white footage and a soundtrack like an audible fractal, and you have a sensory snare which drags you along for the ride into Max's impending breakdown.

    Obsession has never been so exciting.

    Pi is an utterly gut-wrenching, mind expanding phenomema. If you have ever wondered about the universe, God or the nature of insanity, Pi will take you where you don't want to go.
  • Aidan McGuinness11 March 2002
    Inventive, sharp, *different* cinema
    Warning: Spoilers
    After seeing "Pi", you realise that a lot of Hollywood producers should be automatically fired. Why? Because you can make a great film like this for only $60,000 whereas turkeys like "Waterworld" cast tens of millions of dollars. Go figure.

    "Pi" is about the obsession of maths genius Max Cohen (Sean Gullette), trying to find a number, a mathematical connection, that underlies all things but particularly the stock market. His obsession however begins to drive him nuts, with constant headaches and paranoid delusions (or are they...).

    What's most striking about this movie is it's *different*. It isn't really comparable to any other movie I know, in terms of plot or of style. Aronofsky shows an incredible ability to work with a budget and yet still produce a visually striking movie - the movie doesn't suffer from being shot in fuzzy black & white. The paranoia of the man character is enhanced greatly by the use of a "snorricam" - a camera mounted to the body so that the viewer is attached to Max as he walks. Sharp, extremely kinetic cuts add to the frenetic energy and display what we would later see in "Requiem for a Dream". The whole intense, brooding nature is helped by the black & white imagery never allowing for any colour to seep through, enhanced by the fuzzy dream-like quality of the movie that reflects Cohen's delusions. It's no wonder that Aronofsky came away from Sundance as the Best Director for his amazing work here with such limited means.

    The plot is interesting but the number Cohen seeks (which is not Pi - Pi is just used because it is a universal invariant like that which Cohen wants) isn't the centre of the movie. It's about obsession and how, as Max's friend points out, it can drive you to see things everywhere. Sure there are technical inaccuracies in it, but it's played with an assured sense of conviction, ably acted by unknown Gullette.

    "Pi" is very interesting because it stands far out from the crowd. It's not one for those who think "Pearl Harbour" is the way films should be made - it's too different for that. A great debut for a director, who went on to surpass this with his superb next project, "Requiem for a Dream". 9/10.
  • Tarantinoesque15 February 2005
    9/10
    A Flat Out Great Indie Film
    This screenplay must have been turned down one hundred times before someone would finance it. I don't blame them. However, what could have been a travesty was saved by great acting, directing, cinematography, and sound. This brilliant/bizarre film turns a genius's quest to find the code for Wall Street into an adventure that engulfs all of human existence, and God. A brilliant example of how proper film making can turn straw into gold. Some viewers may be put off by the bizarre fits the main character faces, or the intrusion of complex mathematics into film, forcing the viewer to think, but if you watch this film, you will be rewarded a unique movie-going experience few other films will give you. This film gives you a look into the mind of man plagued by the genius he was given.
  • room10211 March 2003
    9/10
    The best no-budget movie you'll ever see
    "Pi (1998)" is, without doubt, the best no-budget movie I've ever seen. Directed by Darren Aronofsky with a ridiculous budget of $60,000 - which I first thought was a mistake in the figures, since I couldn't believe such a movie could possibly be made with that amount of money.

    Most of the cast and crew later re-united to make "Requiem for a Dream (2000)" - one of the best movies made in the last few years. Like many others, it was "Requiem" that made me find "Pi". It took Aronofsky only 2 movies to become one of my favorite directors, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for this young and promising writer/director.

    The movie stars Sean Gullette, which co-wrote the movie with Aronofsky and Eric Watson. You might recognize him as Arnold (Marion's old partner and shrink) in "Requiem". Gullette is perfect in his role and does an amazing job here. It's a shame we don't see his talent in more movies.

    Mark Margolis (Mr. Rabinowitz in "Requiem") is excellent as Max's mentor and all the other cast is doing a great job too.

    Like in "Requiem", technical aspect is top-notch: Excellent black-and-white cinematography (Matthew Libatique) and the innovative use of the Snorricam, lightning, editing (Oren Sarch), and music (Clint Mansell, frontman for Pop will Eat itself).

    The director's commentary for this movie is fascinating. After hearing it you'd appreciate the effort and heart that were put into this movie a lot more.

    Look for guest/cameo appearances by Samia Shoaib (the nurse in "Requiem") as Devi, Max's nextdoor neighbor; Clint Mansell (the movie's composer) as the photographer; and Abraham Aronofsky (Darren's father) as one of the men delivering the suitcase at the door.

    One last word. While some aspects presented in the movie - such as the Hebrew numerology and mathematical concepts - are correct (that is, the explanations of Hebrew numerology are not made-up; That _doesn't_ mean I actually believe in any of the meanings attached to them), I suggest you to use your suspension-of-disbelief instead of trying to find logic and mistakes in them.

    10/10
  • ccthemovieman-14 March 2006
    7/10
    Hard To Add Up....But An Intriguing Curiosity Piece
    Now here'a film that is "not for all tastes," as the cliché goes.

    "Strange" doesn't quite cover it but it is not that bizarre that you can't figure out what's happening. Director-writer Darren Arokofsky made a name for himself with his second movie, Requiem For A Dream, and this was the young filmmakers' first effort. It was made a tight budget since he was an unknown, but that's part of the attraction. This is grainy black-and-white, and so is the gritty story and most of the characters. The unique look fits the story.

    It's not a story that is going to please a lot of people - an almost-demented math wizard trying to figure out stock market codes and two groups hounding him trying to cash in on his brainpower. One is trying to use him to make big money in the market and the other is trying to decipher ancient Jewish texts and thinks our mathematician can help. Meanwhile, he wants no part of any of these people.

    Our hero, the numbers freak, thinks the entire world revolves around numbers. Everything in the universe, he thinks, can be figured out through number codes. Not only is he wacked and paranoid but so is about everyone in here. They all have strange ideas. Innovative camera-work makes the story even stranger. In fact, it's that photography that makes this DVD a part of my collection

    If you're looking for something different here and there, I would give this curiosity piece a quick look. (It's not a long movie.) Overall, I thought this "added up" to an intriguing film, but if you give it a try and hate it, don't blame me.
  • maurya k2k6 April 2005
    1/10
    Senseless, surreal, making-a-fool-of-the-viewer movie.
    Warning: Spoilers
    First of all, this movie has absolutely nothing to do with mathematics or rationality except the Greek letter pi, which is the number 3,14159265358..., the formulas the main character wrote on a piece of paper in the underground-train and the few statements he cited from famous mathematicians. But relating the number pi with this Jewish religion-thing and with the stock-market is such an absurd idea, I just do not know what to say. No person who has some idea of mathematics would EVER make such abstruse connections.

    The viewers, who are so enthused by this film, were only totally blinded by the main character's fits and the "super cool" pursuing-scenes, from which I only got a head-ache.

    After a certain time, the movie was only about the sick fits of the main character and these pursuing-scenes, which are totally a pathetic and a desperate way of trying to make the movie fascinating for the viewer.

    The movie-maker probably tried to make the movie totally spectacular with the schizophrenia, the fits of the main character, the sickness of the main character in general, the shaking of the camera in the pursuing-scenes, the black-and-white picture. But it did not impress me, it only made me almost throw up.

    And by the way, if you bore with an electrical drill into your head, you die or you get totally disabled for life. You do not get away with only losing your intelligence like the main character in the movie.

    The average viewer is totally made a fool of, because the movie makes him think that movie-plot is really "intelligent", which it is not, it is just all fictive, incoherent, disconnected and senseless.

    And finally, the main character is another totally surreal and unrealistic product of the movie-maker's brain or society. There is always this "thin line" between genius and madness, but it is only cliché which is always applied to all fictive or non-fictive "genius" personalities, but I find this cliché totally ridiculous.
  • wilywilliam11 April 2003
    10/10
    Cohesive, stylish and innovative
    The predecessor to Requiem for a Dream, this is arguably more stylish and engaging. This is helped largely by the simply outstanding soundtrack. Aranovsky's use of a haunting yet modern score binds the movie together perfectly, aided by some fantastic cinematic techniques that disorientate the audience in time with the music. The character narration is also a great cohesive tool, with the deadpan delivery more than matching the tone of the piece. This film is not as beautiful as Requiem, nor does it have quite the same gutwrenching effect, but nonetheless, this is still some film. If you like your movies very hollywood then this is not for you; but if you like stylised innovation, then you have to watch this.
  • MisterWhiplash9 September 2006
    9/10
    not about math, but about obsession, paranoia, searching for answers never found
    Pi is the kind of movie I wished I could've seen in one of those dank art-house movie theaters in New York City, as it's practically gift-wrapped for the crowds. But it's not done with every shot lingering on the characters, soaking in minimalism in its black and white photography, quite the opposite. Darren Aronofsky is a filmmaker I first got into through Requiem for a Dream, which now years after I saw it I want to revisit again upon the soon to be released the Fountain and especially after now seeing Pi. Before with 'Requiem', I did like the movie a lot, but felt a little apprehensive about deeming it that old term 'masterpiece' as the editing, while ultra fast for a purpose, almost came off as too "MTV" for me. But years later, after hundreds of more films taken in, I'm ready for a second look. In this particular case, Pi is also the kind of movie that warrants a second look at the director's other films. His themes run just as much together as does his breakneck style. And it's not just to show off; he truly does get inside a psychology through subjective camera AND editing, to a degree that might impress Hitchcock, albeit with some whiplash.

    Max Cohen played by Sean Gullette is the protagonist of the story, who's main foe is none other than the universe itself, in a sense, all through one number. Or rather, a series of numbers, one which might unlock the Stock Market secret for him. He doesn't even want to play the market, mind you, but the point for him- if one can follow- might be attributed to a repeated memory he has of looking at the sun as a boy, and soon looking past the shock of actually looking long at it. This is a very small device by Aronofsky but it works well to establish- and continue- this man's downward spiral. And spirals, by the way, seem to also figure into the film, as well as a secret technology firm (with a woman who reminded me of Condaleeza Rice look-alike), and especially a near undercover Hasidim ring where they need the numbers *in* Cohen's head to unlock some big secret to God. But even with all of this pressure, Cohen can't shake what's dogging him around, in his own cramped, wire-ridden apartment, with many bugs crawling around.

    The key for this movie really is atmosphere, in the acting (if it makes you uncomfortable sometimes that's the point too, and it's probably the strangest performance of a lifetime for Gullette), the production design (that apartment and the subways), the grainy, spectacular photography by Matthew Libatique, the editing to be sure- which here, unlike the breakneck 'Requiem', does take a break from the cuts so quick they almost past subliminally (which isn't bad)- and the moody music that is so slight you almost forget its there. It even works for me, and this is a big plus, as someone who's not really interested in mathematics (worst subject in school), and even better as it drew me in to his obsessions with it. I really liked one of the early scenes between Max and his the friendly Hassidic man who explains on paper different numbers and their relation to parts of the Torah. And, in the end, it all comes down to getting engrossed through what the filmmaker's bringing in with this man. There is a sort of detachment from reality- that most of us would never touch much of this with a ten foot pole- but then again it really isn't. Aronofsky also makes a point of some hallucinations/dreams adding to the ambiance, skidding almost towards the pretentious, and thus creating a world all of its own in Pi for Max, and for us as well.

    A film that I shall certainly seek out again when I can, if only to see if I can understand some things a little more (or maybe not as case might be), and to see such a powerhouse performance from Gullette. Grade: A
  • Logos_Removed22 December 2002
    It's not so black and white.
    This intriguing film reminded me of David Lynch's Eraserhead somewhat. The soundscape of the movie was very industrial in places and the metaphorical imagery used was reminiscent of the early Lynch film. Unlike Eraserhead however this effort has "student film-maker" written all over it, which is not to detract from the entertainment value of the movie.

    The movie's protagonist thinks mathematics can provide the answers to the big questions, but finds out the painful way that it cannot. This is all illustrated quite appropriately within a hallucinatory milieu. Unfortunately is it all a bit too obvious unlike David Lynch who can have machinations within machinations to the point of indecipherability. That criticism aside, the lighting, sound effects and photography were all interesting and combined to provide a claustrophobic feeling and a sense of unrelenting futility.

    To sum the piece struck me as the early work of a director who is on the up and up. I am looking forward to seeing some more of his work in the future. I enjoyed this movie despite its flaws and give it a 6/10 score.
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