All I can say of Pi is Holy Moses! An amazing piece of filmmaking, Pi is the story of mad mathematician Max Cohen whose incredible genius for numbers has him right on top of finding The Answer. In Douglas Adams' world, The Answer is the number 42. However, Darren Aranofky's dark vision brooks no flippancy.
Every creative choice reveals character resonant with this dark world. Black and white paints the binary brain-room where Max lives with a wall to wall computer, a cot, and a sink. As in film noir, Max and his foils are painfully flawed, and their existence is entirely dictated by forces beyond their control. Stock-brokers panic as Wall Street heartlessly and brainlessly deflates, Hassidic Jews continue their wait of millennia for God's word, and Max's brain for pure math leads him into a web of intrigue with people with whom he cannot communicate.
Max describes his theories in internal soliloquy from a park bench. He says that patterns are everywhere in nature. He stares at a tree, a perfect example of his theory, but his monologue mentions epidemics, caribou populations, the tides of the Nile, without ever including the tree right before him. Max lives entirely inside his head, and this is part of his sickness. Max fights debilitating seizures that drive him to the brink and keep the movie on the edgy side of extreme. In his seizures, he has revolting hallucinations. In color, it would be slightly too much.
As he gets closer and closer to solving for x where x=the universe, he becomes a target for two unlikely rival groups, both desperate to get The Number. Pushy Hassidim kidnap Max and nearly talk the knowledge out of him, but oh! those homicidal stockbrokers!
But more than just a thriller, the movie delves into the fascinating field of fractal mathematics. As Max, his old professor, and the Jews discuss them, spirals, fractals, and numerological "coincidences" propagate in the fabric of the film. As with so many of the most brilliant movies, a statement is being made about the state of the art of filmmaking, along with the system of concepts and morals that informs the story.
Intense from opening shot to closing credits, Pi is Sheer perfection! 10 stars!
IN CINEMA 2:
This story is also about a man way inside his head. But the man's head isn't full of math-it's full of magic! The film is from the early days of color, making this comparison ironical, and it's much happier, which we all know is a good, good thing.
Based on a story by James Thurber, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty stars a young Danny Kaye as the scatter-brained hero, a pulp novelist who only wants his life to have some adventure. But when he meets the girl of his dreams whilst playing the good Samaritan, the murderous schemes he gets mixed up in becomes more than he bargained for. It's tapoketa-poketerrific!
Thurber's comedy is carried off splendidly by Kaye, whose facial and physical gymnastics laid the tracks for Jim Carrey's runaway success train. What Kaye adds to the comedy, however, is singing-and not sappy romantic tunes, but wild, madcap satires that shake hands with the songs of Victor Borge and pat the heads of tunes by "Weird" Al Yankovic.
The first song is part of Mitty's flying ace daydream and is a satire of a music professor character who mocks the sounds of the orchestra with deft vocal tricks and extreme mugging. Later, Mitty daydreams that he is the fashion designer Anton of Paris introducing a line of outlandish ladies' hats. This was the only scene I remembered from the time I saw this film on television as a child, at least 20 years ago.
What makes this film so good is its innocence. Whereas Jim Carrey is nothing more than a madcap goofball at best and a whacked-out zanester at worst, Danny Kaye is a consummate entertainer from a bygone age of movies. The plots still have oodles of holes if you're dying to look for them. The outcomes are still completely predictable as they were back then.
Call it nostalgia if you want, but I'm won over by the sound-studio sets, and pastel lighting, the old-time cars, and the characters just too earnest to be anything but sympathetic. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is Just next door to video paradise-9 3/4 stars!
©1999 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights happily reserved.