32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
No Safety In Numbers,
This review is from: Pi [VHS] (VHS Tape)Pi is one of the better independent low-budget films I've seen in the last couple of years. It's a strange, twisted, subversive film, which takes as its thesis the idea that it's possible to know too much, to ask too many questions, for one's own good. A good example is the troubled protagonist of Pi, played to chilling perfection by Sean Gullette, who struggles with both the outside world and himself in his quest for the ultimate knowledge -- an equation which will tie together everything, from the beginnings of the universe to the chaotic ups and downs of the stock market. He is spied upon by unnamed big business interests, hoping to cash in on the latter idea; he is spied upon by Hasidic Jews who hope to cash in on the former idea; both sets of spies add the perfect element of paranoia to the film, and convince you that there is far more going on here than meets the eye, far more going on than is being talked about. The ideas put forth in later scenes bear this out -- boy, do they! -- but I wouldn't want to spoil that for you. The events of Pi, especially in the later scenes, are so surprising that any discussion of the plot would be totally unfair -- like telling someone who hasn't seen Citizen Kane what Rosebud is. So instead I'll confine myself to theme and character, which are sort of intertwined in this film. Gullette's character is a genius mathematician (as you might expect), a child prodigy of sorts who has always, we are told by his narration, courted such dangerous ideas and notions...and has paid the price for his arrogance more than once. He suffers from migranes -- really serious, agonizing ones which give him nosebleeds and vicious hallucinations, and which no painkillers seem able to stop or tame. (In fact the depictions of the migranes are amongst the film's best sequences; I watched it with a friend of mine who suffers from such headaches, and he said that these scenes were pretty close to what he experienced, at least in the feeling those scenes evoked.) It is during or just after the onset of these migranes that Gullette's character seems to receive his greatest revelations and insights -- and here the filmmakers use a technique of showing bright light as the literal image of these insights, a bit of symbolism that is almost, but not quite, clumsy and overdone. I believe it's by their sheer conviction that it works that the filmmakers are able to pull it off at all. In fact, it's through the use of this symbolism (light=knowledge) that Pi does some of its best work. It's used to illustrate the thesis I mentioned earlier, that it's possible to want to know too much for one's own good; Gullette's character relates how as a child, he stared too long into the sun, possibly triggering his migranes and his gift for numbers at the same time...which is why both seem intertwined in his perceptions. The use of light in the migrane sequences, and Gullette's subsequent gifts of insight, not only are symbolic but provide foreshadowing -- is he staring into the sun again? If so, what damage will he do this time? And as the plot slowly reveals where it is going, those questions become not only more difficult to answer, but more unsettling to even ask.
Pi was shot in black and white, which I find entirely appropriate. The harsh images created by the cinematography are a perfect echo for the harsh story, spoken in a language of such harsh rhythms...like the song a puppet sings when it siezes the strings of its own puppeteer. It may take more than one viewing to get everything out of this film, because there's a lot packed into it...but the more you watch it, the more rewarding it is. I would heartily reccommend Pi to any lover of experimental film.
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Initial post: May 10, 2013 7:59:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 10, 2013 8:01:21 PM PDT
Wayward Pilgrim says:
Damn; really wanted to read what people rate as so helpful--BUT---my head spins trying to navigate that unending 'paragraph'. Wish you'd rewrite it, or just break it up into navigable several sentence paragraphs---with gaps. Thanks
PS I realize this is just how my eyes work...or fail to function with brain. Still......
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