Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Proof

As I mentioned over on Nick's blog, the math department at Berkeley was given a stack of free tickets to a sneak preview of Proof tonight- the movie set in the University of Chicago math department, filmed on campus in 2003. I took Alice with me (a date preceded by trying some excellent appetizer recipes she's posting to the Shoreland Recipes Blog and followed by dinner in Japantown, where the preview was shown at the Kabuki Theatre).

First off, the movie is excellent. I rank it with Mad Hot Ballroom as the two best movies I've seen this year. The acting is great (Anthony Hopkins certainly absorbed the lecture Paul Sally gave him on acting like a math professor; Gwyneth Paltrow and Jake Gyllenhaal get the U of C demeanor right, although Alice thinks Jake "looks too good to be a math grad student". Grumble grumble.), but the superb part is the script, which David Auburn helped adapt from his own play. David is a U of C grad himself, and he nails the delicate mix of cleverness and awkwardness that marks the university. The movie is genuinely funny, not with one-liners but with ingenious conversations and full characters. (Sadly from an economic standpoint, this means that it's hard to find self-contained three-second clips for a preview ad; the commercials for Proof had disappointed me.) The human drama is intense and completely believable, and you would not believe the amount of suspense they draw from the scenes. Ambiguity is used to incredible effect in so many interactions, particularly when tracing the fine line between genius and madness.

OK, enough raving. Just go see it if you like mathematics (Good Will Hunting and A Beautiful Mind were Hollywood stereotypes of mathematicians, Proof is the real deal), or if you know the University of Chicago at all, or if you just want to see a well-produced movie that avoids all the usual clich├ęs of screenwriting.

And you had better see it if you know Ian, because he's sitting prominently two rows behind Gwyneth in Rockefeller Chapel. Alice and I "eek!"ed together when we saw him.

OK, I've got to sleep. Got to do some functional analysis tomorrow.

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