Darren Aronofsky is a weird dude, you know? He’s done some odd films, from the misunderstood The Fountain to his absolutely insane script for the never-filmed Batman: Year One (did you know he had Batman as a homeless psychopath that hung out with a car mechanic named “Al?”). Most of his output has been divisive, with mother! earning the baffling F on Cinemascore from fans. He’s had a bizarre career and has become one of my favorite American directors. Okay, so he’s been my favorite for about twelve years now, but nonetheless…he’s weird.
Let’s talk about his first film. Let’s talk about Pi.
The movie follows Max Cohen (Sean Gullette), a man obsessed with finding order and structure to explain the world by looking for patterns in the stock market and the pi. He buddies around with his only friend, mentor and retired mathematician Sol (Mark Margolis). When he begins to find what he’s looking for, reality starts to get weird and he dives all the way in, making deals with stockbroker Marcy Dawson (Pamela Hart) and Hisidic Jew Lenny Meyer (Ben Shenkman). Things spiral out of control and it gets buckwild from there.
I first stumbled across this movie in a two-pack at Best Buy, coupled with Requiem for a Dream. The latter has always been considered the better, but I found Pi more intriguing personally. Its weird, grimy style and panel of character-actors were so fascinating. Max Cohen is an obsessive individual, something more people might be familiar with than would care to admit. Sure, you might not like to admit it, but we’ve all got something somewhere we’re mildly obsessed with. Hell, I know people obsessed with specific films or books and even one that has more of a puzzle obsession than she’d be happy to admit to. It’s a behavior ingrained in each of us. Me? I have control issues, ones that stem from OCD and a need to order and control my life. I also desire order and understanding of it in the world around me. In this I can really identify with Max, his need to find patterns in chaos, and to tear reality apart to take a look at the moving parts. It’s kind of fun, but not always so healthy.
We cannot, in any way, talk about Aronofsky without also talking about Clint Mansell. The guy is a legend, having scored episodes of Black Mirror and several amazing films. He was Aronofsky’s go-to guy for most of his career, creating wonderful soundscapes that set the tone of a film in ways that take the material to a completely other plane of existence. Music is one of the things that can take a pretty good film to an incredible experience. Mansell has taken Aronofsky’s quiet, deeply contemplative film and thrown all matter of electronica at it. It’s a ringing, clanging, zipping little bit of nasty that I love so much. He took the film and made it something even more special than it would have been without him. I think it’s a gorgeous score and I hope everyone hunts it down.
Aronofsky made better movies, but he really nailed it from the get-go. Pi is a strange look at man’s attempt to understand and control their reality, the dangers that lie within that pursuit, and the necessary lessons learned from the game Go. Give it a shot, I don’t think most of you will regret it, and it’s a tight little thriller at less than an hour and a half long. C’mon, most of you KNOW you have nothing better to do tonight!
Pi is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.