By far the best Jewish horror movie about maths of the year, Pi is living, screaming proof that lack of money doesn't necessarily limit scope. The term "American Independent Cinema" may conjure up images of small-town family dramas filmed in interminably long takes, but Pi hurls out a story that takes in the globalisation of the stock market, the entire history of Judaism and the possibility of spontaneously sentient computer systems.
It bills itself as a sci-fi movie, which is actually quite misleading: if anything, it's more akin to Cronenberg's vision of body-horror, with Max's solitary days in his New York apartment splintered by nightmarish hallucinations and violent seizures of suicide-inducing magnitude. Although he lives more or less within a vast DIY super-computer that packs his home, the story stays clear of being nerdy or needlessly jargon-filled. So although Max speaks constantly of theorems and mathematical formulae, the accompanying visuals and voice-over at least try to explain what he's on about.
As Max struggles to find the order behind the seemingly random fluctuations in the stock market, he dodges sinister corporate suits desperate to buy his knowledge. Then there's the orthodox Jew who befriends him in a `chance' meeting and discloses the strange link between maths and the Torah. And soon things start to become really strange.
The look and style of Pi is truly astonishing, lurching between scenes and scored with thumping dance music. Like the comic- book art it apes, the film's black-and-white look is either black or white, further fuelling the unreality of the situation. Truly unique and a superb example of what you can do on a budget little more than the cost of an executive class BMW.
Pi is set to be one of the most odd and intelligent films of the year, as compelling for X-Philes as it is for horror movie fans. The conclusions it draws aren't as satisfying as the mysteries it throws up, but it's still a mesmerising and impressive debut.
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