A paranoid mathematician plus a nefarious stockbroker plus Hassidic
  mystics (Kabbalists) equals one of the most original films of the year,
PI. If
  you've forgotten your Euclidean geometry, pi (the 16th letter of the Greek
  alphabet) is a transcendental number that represents the ratio of the
  circumference of a circle to its diameter. (Usually, it's reduced to 3.14 but in
  actuality it is an infinite number— 3.14159265….)

          Darren Aronofsky's film
PI is, in its own way, a transcendental experience.
  A sci-fi thriller, it is beautifully shot on black-and-white reversal film stock by
  Matthew Libatique, with a driving electronica score composed by Clint Mansell,
  the film is both a visual and aural treat. Aronofsky has mined influences as
  varied as Buñuel and Welles to James Whale and David Cronenberg to fashion

           The storyline was developed with the leading actor Sean Gullette and
  producer Eric Watson and is an amalgam of fascinating and incongruous pieces.
  The central figure is Maximillian Cohen (played by Gullette), a highly intelligent
  but deeply troubled math genius. Max once defied his mother and look directly
  at the sun — finding a moment of sheer mystical exultation that he has sought
  to rediscover in his work.

          After temporary blindness, he was left plagued by migraines that strike
  at random. Max has holed up in an apartment in Chinatown where he has
  jerry-built his own computer (aptly named Euclid) on which he tests his
  theories. Believing that the stock market is actually "a natural organism"
  and that patterns can be found in its natural chaos, Max practically drives
  himself to the brink of madness. In weekly meetings with a mentor,
  another mathematician who suffered a stroke while attempting a similar
  discovery, he tests his ideas over games of Go.

          Cohen's work has caught the attention of a renegade Wall Street
  denizen who offers Max an experimental microchip. He also meets an
  Hassidic scholar who begins to explain his beliefs in Kabbalistic tradition
  — that the Torah holds the key to creation and by Gammantria (using
  mathematics) one can unlock its secrets. Max's natural paranoia (captured
  by Aronofsky in a series of striking images, particularly in the NYC subway
  system) eventually proves to be more real than he could have imagined.
  The stockbroker wants his knowledge of the market while the Kabbalists
  are certain he holds the number that represents the name of God. The final,
  ambiguous denouement perfectly caps the film.
          PI received the Director's Award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival
  and heralds the arrival of a strong new voice in the world of independent
  filmmaking. This is clearly a director's film and Aronofsky creates a tense,
  moody world. The only quibble may be the repetitive use of some sequences
  showing Max's use of medication to quell his migraines, but overall, this is a
  fascinating and well-crafted piece, both original in concept and striking in
  execution. Because the film gets inside the head of Maximillian Cohen, only
  Sean Gullette is given full rein to develop as a screen presence. The other
  characters are filtered through Cohen's perspective and Mark Margolis as his
  aged mentor, Ben Shenkman as the Hassidim and Pamela Hart as the
  stockbroker acquit themselves. But Gullette, with his high forehead and
  haunted eyes cuts an indelible figure. If only high school geometry had been
  half as fun as this.

                          Rating:                 B+
                          MPAA Rating:        R for language and some disturbing images
                          Running time:       84 mins.
© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.