"A boldly audacious film that wires right into your synapses."
PI is a film of almost hypnotic originality. Not since David Lynch's stunning debut Eraserhead has a film spun such an intriguing and devouring web. This first feature from young New Yorker Darren Aronofsky is so cerebral that it's almost alienating, so rich in ideas and imagination as to be practically indigestible. But that's Aronofsky's provocative talent: he just manages to stay inside the line. No matter how hard it pushes, PI is impossible to ignore.Max Cohen (Gullette) is a highly-strung genius who believes that mathematics is the language of nature. He spends his days holed up in his apartment scouring the stock exchange for a guiding formula that he can crack. When he links up with a smart mouthed Hassidic Jew (Shenkman), Cohen realises that the numbers inside his head might work not just to break the stock market, but as a direct line to God himself. With his mind going into meltdown, Cohen's head becomes a valuable commodity as a gang of Wall Street heavies want his answers, and a group of hard hitting Rabbis want him to hook them up with the big man.
Filmed in smudgy, washed out black-and-white, PI is a non-negotiable formula for complete and utter weirdness. Aronofsky unravels his story at a stagnant but somehow hectic pace. Nothing much happens in the way of action, but the ideas pour out so quickly that the film bolts like a freight train. With reckless abandon, Aronofsky throws everything into a boiling pot and lets the ingredients steam and collide with each other. And what a witch's brew it is: maths as a soul language, madness as prophecy, computers gaining consciousness by decoding their composition, the stock exchange as a prime example of organised chaos, and religion as a series of rigid and tabulated formulas. PI is a real head trip, in the most literal sense of the term.
But while Aronofsky has intelligence in spades, he lacks a little something equally as important: soul. If he had have managed to tap into the tortured humanity of his film a bit more, Aronofsky could have made a work with slightly more resonance. PI has a silicone chip instead of a heart, and manages to engage solely as a neuron busting intellectual puzzle. Its central character is a total enigma, inaccessible from every angle, and the audience is never really let in.
But sometimes an intellectual exercise can be mesmerising enough to succeed on its own terms.PI is a boldly audacious, uncompromising film that wires right into your synapses and puts you on pulse from beginning to end. An extraordinary achievement from a director to watch. ---Erin Free