Math, sex and tattoos: Cal prof stirs it up with short film

A UC Berkeley math professor is causing something of a controversy with a movie which aims to demonstrate his thesis — one he teaches to his students — that multivariable calculus and other mathematical formulas are inherently beautiful.

Professor Edward Frenkel’s 26-minute film, Rites of Love and Math, which has its North American première tonight, Wednesday, December 1,  at Berkeley’s Shattuck Cinemas, has triggered an upset on campus, according to UC Berkeley News Center which reports that the campus-based Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, one of two original co-sponsors of the screening, withdrew its support on Sunday in response to criticism from people who had seen the movie’s trailer and found it “disturbing, offensive and/or insulting to women.”

The film has just two characters, one of whom is a mathematician played by Frankel himself, and involves, among other things, an existentialist crisis, sex and a significant tattoo.

The short, an homage to Yushio Mishima’s film, Yûkoku (The Rite of Love and Death) has screened in cities around Europe and received some positive reviews. Frenkel says he is looking forward to having a Berkeley audience watch the largely silent movie, telling UCB News, “It’s my town, it’s where I have my friends, my students, my colleagues. It’s a place I feel comfortable showing the film. It’s unconventional — and controversial even here.”

Watch the trailer to see what the fuss is about and read the full story at UC Berkeley News Center.


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