Writer/director Darren Aronofsky's audacious debut comes across like Eraserhead re-envisioned by cyberpunk author William Gibson. Sean Gullette plays a mathematical genius beset by debilitating headaches and an insatiable quest for a numerical series that links everything in the world, from the stock market to The Bible. After a breakthrough that costs him his homemade computer, Gullette is approached by members of a radical Jewish Kabbalah sect, as well as armed Wall Street goons. Both are after the mysterious numbers in his head. As Gullette's headaches worsen, his quest becomes more and more maddening. But what does this numerical code of the universe mean, and why are so many people interested in it? Strikingly shot in high-contrast black-and-white with a variety of novel, stylish camera techniques, evokes the paranoia of Poe and Kafka within the fuzzy framework of science fiction. Shadowy figures lurk in subway stations, dripping blood and leaving behind a gory record of their presence. Ants infest Gullette's computer, oozing sticky goo. Brooklyn is visualized as narrow alleyways, claustrophobic rooms, and winding catacombs. Aronofsky lets most questions hang until the film's conclusion, and keeping the audience in the dark is just another way to heighten the chaotic, exhilarating, frequently imposing mood of Aronofsky's film. [Pi] won the Directing Award for Dramatic Competition at Sundance, and rightly so: Aronofsky's ability to capture the rush and confusion of racing down a timeline toward infinity, only to suddenly slam into a dead end, makes for impressive and occasionally disturbing stuff.
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