Computer Chess

October 19, 2013 No Comments

Geeks and nerds of the world unite!!!!!!

Computer Chess is director Andrew Bujalski’s trippy return to the 1980’s when computers were clunky boxes  existin_DSC0736-Mg only in the domain of a few socially-challenged eggheads from MIT or CalTech.  Buljalski tells his tale of a three day “tournament” which draws a group of uber nerds exploring the possibility beating a chess master with a computer.  In this pre-Bill Gates profitability era, the tournament takes place in a rather seedy hotel whose conference room must be shared with a group of middle aged hippies seeking enlightenment via primal screams and rebirth exercises.

Buljalski shot his film with a Sony Portapac, which provides the authentic grainy look that captures the meticulous period haircuts and polyesters perfectly.  Buljalski moves his story from mocumentary realism to strange twists and turns, existential conversation and puzzlement about the cats(yes, I said cats) that seem to roam throughout the space.  Realistic characters (the earnest young male programmer, the bespeckled singular woman and the conference’s organizer) become  archetypes in a shift that is seemless and often really funny (albeit with a deadpan geeky wit).

I am reluctant to say much more about the film to avoid spoiling the delight of experiencing the fresh approach Buljalski uses to plumb a time not so long ago.  Buljalski who made his mark within the sometimes maligned mumblecore movement, has expanded his realm with this engaging film.   There is geek banter and predictions about the future that are priceless.

The film won major awards at Sundance and is screening this weekend and next  at the Detroit Film Theater.  (Saturday, October 19 at 9:30;  Sunday October 20 at 4:30)  It will be available on DVD on November and can be screened now on your laptop(what else?) via Amazon Instant Video.

I thought of Computer Chess as a kind of experimental melange of  Cronenberg’s Pi and television’s  The Big Bang Theory uploaded together, and reprogrammed  to create a quirky artificia, intelligence  that is a pleasure to watch.

See you online!

Jolyn Wagner

Must See Movie of the Week

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