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Check. And. Mate.

August 23rd, 2013 § Leave a Comment

I haven’t seen director Andrew Bujalksi’s earlier films, but as far as I can tell, this singular film cannot be considered similar to any film I’ve ever seen, and surely that includes Bujalski’s own oeuvre as well.

COMPUTER CHESS is the perfect lead in to our celebration of dead video formats (lots of great VHS docs and VHS film rarity presentations just on the horizon, if you hadn’t noticed). Shot entirely on vintage B&W analog video equipment, this film achieves a look that no other film has ever done. Of course, much of that has to do with the immaculate production design and costuming that makes you believe 100% that you’re looking at home video quality footage circa 1980.

No, not 2010s hipsters, but 1980s geeks. An easy mistake.

No, not 2010s hipsters, but 1980s geeks. An easy mistake.

What also lends the film incredible atmosphere is the superbly subtle and underacted characters that populate this world of chess masters and computer programmers. Combining two of the perhaps geekiest hobbies/professions, Bujalski still manages to craft performances that dance around the tropes that your average director would throw at you (D&D, pit stains, speech impediments, etc). The humor is delicate, dry, and, with few exceptions, almost imperceptible. Throw in a sub plot that may or may not involve the birth of artificial intelligence, and you have a master class film.

This film was one of the most unique films I saw at SIFF 2013, and it was lost in a wash of Baumbachs and Gordon Greens in among the New American Cinema films. This film won the Alfred P. Sloan award at Sundance; if you’re feeling adventurous, give this film a try. You’ll never see anything quite like it.

—computer chess, as on the nose as a title gets, dan

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