Monday, January 05, 2009

Film: Squamous Pie

Pi (1998), Written and Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Story by Darren Aronofsky, Sean Gullette, and Eric Watson.

No, I'm not going to use the math symbol - it'll just show up on your screens as a black diamond with a question mark in it. Though a black diamond is a good idea of the tough sledding ahead.

The Lovely Bride borrowed this from Scarlet at her latkes party, and as the snow came down on Grubb Street, we loaded it up on the Playstation and hunkered down.

And its a Cthulhu film, worthy of showing at a Lovecraft film festival.

No, it doesn't deal with horrid tentacled entities. But it is invested strongly with the spirit of "Things man was not meant to know". Of toxic knowledge, information that is itself damaging by its very existence. This is the realization of the Elder Gods, or the Requiem for Shaggai, or the King in Yellow. It deals with paranoia and the trope that there ARE people watching you, even if you are paranoid. .

Sean Gullette is Maximillian Cohen, math genius, who is trying to prove reality through numbers, seeking the patterns that supposedly underlie everyday live. He lives a lonely life in his apartment, glancing off his neighbors (the concerned woman next door, the suspicious landlady, the child who uses her calculator to race his mental calculations. His one real contact is Sol Robeson (Mark Margolis), a retired professor who gave up his own attempts to determine the patterns of the universe following his stroke.

Max has his computer hermitage in his ant-filled apartment, and seeks to prove the patterns through predicting the stock market. His work is noticed by others, a corporate shill and a group of Hasidic Jews. All are seeking the patterns of the universe for different reasons - defying reality, manipulating the market, or finding the name of god. And as Max achieves, his goal, he realizes the toxicity of the perfect math upon the world.

The film is shot in black and white, overexposed and granular, which was experimental back when Warhol was alive and while it brings the madness closer and more immediate, makes it hard to engage with. Similarly, it is hard to determine what is real and was is delirium as the madness grows.

Oh, and add to Chekhov's Gun the concept of Aronofsky's Power Drill.

So does it work? Yeah, though it helps if you already have an grounding in mathematics and kabbalah, because they aren't stopping to explain a lot - indeed, Max's talk of golden rectangles and golden spirals may for many just be one more piece of madness for the viewer. And the title? Well, Pi is a set value, which makes it concrete, but it is endless and non-repeating, which means it defies full definition.

Its a worthwhile film, but strap in for a rocky ride.

More later,