I don't want to reveal too much here. No spoilers. I did not know anything at all about Computer Chess before I sat down at the local rep house to view it, maybe you shouldn't either. It seemed like it was an old documentary about an early 1979 contest to design a computer program that could beat a human being at chess. I thought, as I was watching it, that eventually the documentary would jump to the present day, and interview the participants in that contest, and provide revelations about the the development of artificial intelligence, and perhaps about the evolution of the <more>
participants in that early competition. But, at some point, maybe 10 or 15 minutes into the film, I realized that what I thought the movie was about was not at all what the movie was about. And I thought to myself, Wow! Incredibly the movie manages to merge a story about a bunch of extreme tech nerds with a story about a bizarre cult of seekers of sexual and spiritual awakening. My movie-going companion and I were both entranced all during the film, and couldn't stop talking about it afterwards. This movie is the real deal: it's what we used to go to the movies for. Complexity, surprise, enthrallment, humor, enigmas, revelations. Ambiguity. Somehow a bunch of people down in Austin, Texas made the perfect movie.
Just like a chess game has almost endless possibilities, so do people. In "Computer Chess" set decades ago, a bunch of mostly nerdy introverts assemble to test their chess programs in competition. The programs are pretty awful, with some amazing glitches evident in the games played by contrast, today's chess programs are killer . "Computer Chess" is set in a hotel and we encounter other folks no less strange in their own way. Surprisingly good theater in this film - lots of quiet laughs as people and their strangenesses interact - or not. Really shades of both Kafka <more>
and Andy Warhol. Two unexpected encounters at the end of the movie wrap it up very well. The batter takes the first pitch for a called strike, but the second pitch winds up in the bleachers.
A Surprising Gem, Even For Computer Illiterates. (by waitvoidoid)
Not knowing my way around computers I still type with two fingers at a time , I was expecting to be bored stupid by this little independent film. However I was pleasantly surprised. Even if you are confused by anything and everything A.I. this movie works on so many levels you're bound to get something from it. Shot in black and white with a cinema verite style, it looks great and feels nostalgic. The performances are very funny, I'm not sure if they all serve to reinforce nerdy stereotypes, but all are very believable. I found the subtle themes of Cold War competition and the <more>
anxieties about machines becoming more intelligent than humans to be very interesting.I saw this film just before Spike Jonze's 'Her' and they make for good company with back to back viewings.
What a film! Existential comedy on Computer Chess Convention? (by petar-mitric)
This is a masterpiece of simplicity and intelligence. Beautifully shot with a PortaPak camera in early 80's style, or at least it looks like one. Story of passionate people in search for love. Computer Chess! What a wonderful idea to gather a plot. Specially when you have a drop of new age religion involved and strong sexual energy restrained. Sincerely humorous, this film hits the point. Specially in today's technology-obsessed universe. Acting is so convincing and natural that one can easily think of it as a documentary, but its not - its art. Reminds on early Cassavetes. I will <more>
definitely wait for Bujalski's next film. Personally, best at Berlinale 2013. Love this film.
I had absolutely no clue what I was letting myself into. Just that a friend of mine was telling me I had to see it. It played at the International Film Festival in Berlin and I can only say my friend was right. If there is just a slight geeky/nerdy side in you, you will like this movie too. The fact, they had me guessing for a second, if that was actually made back when this is supposed to play is just great.Of course, even if you don't know if this is a real documentary or not it's not , you will get this very early on. But the jokes are really funny and even when it seems to be <more>
dragging a bit, it will pick up speed again and deliver on its funny premise. The acting is great and the film does look as old as it is supposed to look. Jokes work nicely and the overall feeling is just great. Check-mate
Funny, sharp picture of how we all were (by bob-2325)
The Computer Chess subculture, how it looked, and how it related to the rest of early 80s U.S. culture, is central in this pitch-perfect film, which captures the loss of a particular variety of innocence. The PortaPak video may be blurry by today's standards, but the characters and dialog are sharp with a cutting, mockumentary wit.The plot mainly follows the members of the competing chess program teams and some odd hangers-on through the weekend tournament, but the interactions with a New Age encounter group sharing the motel add another dimension to the story and remind us of some of <more>
If you're sick & Atari'd of forgettable films, you should add this to your Coleco-tion (by rooprect)
"Computer Chess" is a trip. It's a trip back to the 80s when nerds reigned supreme if only in their rather limited social circles . More than that, it's a mind trip of dweebish proportions. We'll get to that later. First a few things you should know: The movie is almost entirely in black & white, rather grainy & unappealing video 4:3 . This can be somewhat tiring on the eyes, compared to the 1080p digital glory we're accustomed to. But before you pass judgment you should know that the filmmakers purposely used an old Sony AVC-3260 b&w tube camera from <more>
the 70s. Director of photography Matthias Grunsky explains:"These tubes also have a very specific soft character, which would not be easy to recreate in post. The cameras had electronic issues and sometimes would generate electronic noise when touching the camera body or the lens. All these artifacts combined add a transcendental character to the image and help express the sometimes unexplainable things that happen between man and computer in our story."So right off the bat you can see that the film is artistically motivated. Whether you decide that it has significance, or whether you think it's just an annoying gimmick is up to you.The second thing you should be ready for is near the end it makes a leap of logic concerning technology, in particular, artificial intelligence. Normally I don't care when science fiction films go off the deep end like that, but this film is closer to historical fiction and does a great job, except for this one glitch . Overall it presents the rather ho-hum reality of technology in the 80s, and the humor is that 80s technology sucked! That's why it came as a surprise in one scene where suddenly technology surpasses what we could even hope for today. But I admit that plot twist is essential to the story & message. So, my fellow pocket-protected geeks in the audience, try to take it in stride.The rest of the movie gets nothing but high praise from me. It's surprisingly accurate, and if you haven't guessed, I was an 80s kid who grew up thinking "Pong" and the Radio Shack TRS-80 were the greatest things the human race could ever achieve... so I knew that mentality well. How hilariously ironic it is to watch a movie about a conference of nerds who are lifelong-obsessed with creating a computer chess simulator which, today, wouldn't hold the average gamer's attention span past the welcome screen. But irony is the backbone of this film, and if you enjoy ironic comedies like "Ed Wood" about the worst director who ever lived , "Best in Show" about a bunch of freaks competing for whose dog is prettiest or the unintentionally hilarious documentary "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" about an 80s metal band called... can you guess? , then I think you'll get a real kick out of "Computer Chess".An extra little push over the cliff, which some audiences may not like but I found intriguing, is the hyper stylistic approach to cinematography. Although visually bland black & white video , there are some artistic tricks that the director used. For example, despite the nuts & bolts visual presentation, the director achieved a degree of surrealism by using quirky edits unexpected, disorienting jump cuts as well as deliberate audio synch mismatches. This compliments the rather surreal turn of events that occur--things that make you wonder "WTF just happened?" Some scenes seem totally random and disconnected, but memorable nonetheless. And without spoiling anything, I can say that "Computer Chess" has one of the most WTF endings I've ever seen.Definitely not for audiences wanting to be dazzled by theatrics, visuals and fantastic plots, "Computer Chess" is a very minimalistic yet highly entertaining step back in time, giving us the rare opportunity to appreciate the absurdity of "hi-tech" in hindsight. The whole film happens over the course of 3 days in a roadside motel. But it's still a masterpiece. Sort of like the famous minimalist film "Das Boot" shot entirely in a submarine but full of depth & meaning, this movie shot in 2 or 3 rooms with no props but a bunch of dusty old computers really packs a lot. Maybe an alternate title for this nerdfest could be "DOS BOOT".Hey, laugh it up. I worked a long time on that stupid pun.
As both a chess and AI lover this film was wonderful for me.However it's surprisingly entertaining and funny for the average viewer too.The cinema was alive with laughter and enjoyment. Some hilarious awkward tension with an "alternative therapy" group.In fact quite a few awkward moments overall.The fake documentary approach is perfectly executed. Amazing style and attention to detail.It's in black and white and 4x3 aspect ratio. I loved it! Just don't expect a summer blockbuster.
A Gently Humorous Portrayal of Eighties Geeks (by l_rawjalaurence)
Set in and around a computer chess tournament in an anonymous hotel in the Eighties, COMPUTER CHESS takes a gently humorous look at a group of geeks - some of them are involved in computers, others in some form of transcendental meditation. Shot in black-and-white, including the kind of shots blurred screens, switches from black-and-white to color, abrupt changes of location that suggest amateur film-making even though the film is very professionally made , the film looks at how geeks approach what they do with extreme seriousness, even though what they do is manifestly absurd. Myles Paige <more>
is particularly good as Pappageorge, who thinks of himself as a computer whizkid but ends up having a weekend from hell at the computer convention. There are some very funny set pieces, especially when one computer geek finds himself in a bedroom with a husband-and-wife from the transcendental meditation group, who are both dedicated to the idea of free love. Although set in the past, COMPUTER CHESS can be understood in terms of the present; there are just as many geeks around now, whose technical obsessions render them unaware of the daily realities of the world around them.