21 February 2011

Pi by Aronofsky, 1998

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 5:26 pm



  1. This is why you should never play Go. Does your head in.


    Comment by NB — 22 February 2011 @ 5:14 am

  2. Black and white film, black and white Go tokens… black and white swans? In the framing of this Go game (which visually reminds me of the overhead shots in Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes), our hero Max is playing black, while his mentor is white. Max deliberates, then finally places one of his black chits on the board. His mentor immediately slaps down a white token. Again Max is seen hesitating before making his next move. His mentor laughs: “Stop thinking, Max. Just feel. Use your intuition.” I realize that you’ve not seen Black Swan, nb, but this line of dialog could easily have been spoken by the choreographer to Nina the dancer. Very similar themes are played out in Pi. I also think that the overexposed black and white cinematography plays well with the theme, and could have been used to good effect also in Black Swan for similar reasons.


    Comment by ktismatics — 22 February 2011 @ 6:17 am

  3. The only time I played the game I deliberated for a while over each move, much like Max. I was used to playing chess. My opponent didn’t seem that involved in it at all. He totally destroyed me.


    Comment by NB — 22 February 2011 @ 8:46 am

  4. I’ve played Go a few times, though never with/against anyone who actually knew how to play well. Max is trying to understand the patterns on the board that emerge from the sequence of individual moves. Presumably that’s the key to winning: anticipating how the pattern will unfold in the next move, and the next. Max spends most of his time trying to discern patterns in the stock market. The advice of Max’s mentor is to move beyond detailed mathematical modeling to feeling, intuition, creativity. Eventually Max transcends: it’s not the numbers, it’s the syntax, the meaning, the spaces between the numbers. Now he can feel the pattern of the market as it moves; he’s able to predict end-of-day prices of every individual stock. Max insists that he’s not interested in the money, but only in the patterns — it’s the voice of God, as he learns from the Kabbalah cabal. The rabbis are after his knowledge, as is a big Wall Street investment house: they all want to exploit his ability to channel the divine for power and money. So he drills a hole in his head, releasing the holy pattern from his mind and vice versa. Is this an escape, or is it the posthuman next move made by the Pattern-Maker Himself? I think it’s meant to be the former, since at the end Max seems blissed out by his inability to do math in his head any more. He looks at the tree leaves and, instead of searching for patterns, he relaxes into the beauty.

    Here is Ian McEwan accepting a literary prize in Israel:

    Addressing his remarks at the opening ceremony of Jerusalem’s international book fair to “Israeli and Palestinian citizens of this beautiful city”, the novelist said: “Hamas has embraced the nihilism of the suicide bomber, of rockets fired blindly into towns, and the nihilism of the extinctionist policy towards Israel.” But it was also nihilism that fired a rocket at the home of the Gazan doctor, Izzeldin Abuelaish, killing three of his daughters and a niece during the Gazan war. “And it is nihilism to make a long-term prison camp of the Gaza Strip. Nihilism has unleashed a tsunami of concrete across the occupied territories.” …The question, said McEwan, was Lenin’s: what is to be done? Israel, he said, needed to harness the creativity of its writers, artists and scientists, and not “retreat to a bunker mentality. The opposite of nihilism is creativity.”

    McEwan depoliticizes the Israeli-Palestinian war, regarding it as a nihilistic failure of artistry and creativity. Aronofsky seems to believe the opposite: linking creativity to the science of warfare — and Go, like chess, is a war game — would more likely bring on Armageddon than the Millennium. OTOH, according to Judeo-Christian accelerationist eschatology you have to go through the former before you can get to the latter.


    Comment by ktismatics — 23 February 2011 @ 6:25 am

  5. Unfortunately, my opponent was no Go master and had played it only about a half a dozen times. I’m pretty crap at chess too.

    I suspect McEwan was thinking more of the East West Orchestra as a symbol of peaceful, productive creativity rather than finding the authoritative pattern of warfare or anything else. Although, the chic (God, why?) sub-Zizek reference to “What is to be Done?” is just irritating. And suggests that maybe he would dreamily prefer outright civil war than anything so wet as a multicultural orchestra. If so … it’s time for your trepanning, Mr McEwan.


    Comment by NB — 23 February 2011 @ 8:59 am

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