Max Cohen has a long list of mental-problems, psycho somatic, hyper-obsessiveness, severe headaches because he allegedly stared at the sun when he was young; too many to continue naming. Max is played by a taut-faced Sean Gullette to great, authentic effect. Similar to ‘Peeping Tom’, this movie has little interaction outside of Max and his mind’s manifestations.

Max wants to break the secrets of Pi and predict the stock market; he is obsessive, hallucinatory, and has very little friends, besides a seizure-stricken retired Mathematician. The man discusses during casual father-son like meetings, that approaching Math with conviction and desire for a conclusion will get to you floating towards a dead end. Indeed, the man gets the seizures from being overly-attentive to his studies, depicted in the film like a drug.

The movie is shot in black-and-white and features some powerful moments of panic. It is has some irrefutable similarities to Aronofsky’s later work ‘Requiem for a Dream’ like the sharp close-up to the cupped pill flying into the needy mouth of its target. But this is meager, it’s his own work and he has the the right to draw from it.

The movie is a stark representation of intellectual-obsession and how it can madden ones soul, albeit it
doesn’t help to be slightly mad already. The voice-over callback to ‘When I was young I stared at the sun’ is partly a signal to the audience of his troubled existence, and also his Dysfunctional Defiance Syndrome, hence wanting to crack the stock-market because he is repeatedly told he cannot.

The film is a stark, nightmarish auteur-attempt and fits the black-and-white bill as good as any modern film can. The end scene fades, like the final scenes of Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’, with a gloom of ambiguous prosperity and heaven, a long needed escape from needing so erratically to know.

The King of Comedy

The King of Comedy, the nickname given to the legendary comedian Jerry Lewis, is a film about lonely passion and rejection. It was directed by Martin Scorsese in 1983 and is one of his most ignored filmsĀ  in his career, although I found it to be very sensitive and well-made. It stars Robert Deniro as sociopath Rupert Pupkin, a self-idealized sociopath who wants nothing else than to become a talk-show host and comedian, like Lewis.

The film starts out with some unique scenes that contrast Rupert’s existence with the fantasies he has about his existence; he imagines he is sitting at a five-star restaurant with Jerry Lewis, arguing with him about taking over his show “for only six weeks”, when in reality, he would be lucky to squeeze out a two-word conversation with Jerry Lewis. A glimmer of hope shines at the beginning, when Rupert acts as Jerry’s bodyguard when he is being harassed by his fans. He gets in the car with Jerry and says he put his head out for him, a gash on his forearm as proof, and starts pitching his desire to be a comedian, not the act itself.

The comedian, Rupert, has a cut-out stage in his basement where he practices his routine. His mother periodically beckons him to be quiet, but we never see her face, like the mother in Psycho. What the film expresses unlike any other film is awkward tension; when Rupert is out on a date with a bar-tender he likes, when he is sitting in the reception room and says, “I’ll wait”. It is all about this inner tension and his desire to rid himself of it through comedy and personal demands.

If the movie was more successful, the final scene would be considered a classic: After forcing himself onto the stage, Rupert surprises us all with a magical act of witty comedy. Jumping on the bar-counter, Rupert plays the bar t.v. for the bar-tender, finally able to impress her with something real, not told. The King of Comedy is a brooding film, a meditation on popularity and star-power in American society, and an entree in Scorsese’s filmography that is on the same shelf of his greats, like Taxi Driver and Raging bull.