Saturday, May 11, 2013

"Computer Chess": a comedy about the early days of the PC revolution (it's not so much about chess theory)

The little comedy “Computer Chess” by Andrew Bujalski was a hit at the Maryland Film Festival in Baltimore, nearly filling the large (non-staidium) Auditorium #1 at the Charles Street center for the 5 PM showing.

It’s in the style of a little black-abd-white movie, even with old-fashioned aspect (4:3), set in a hotel in the 1980s, where for the first time man plays machine in a chess tournament.
But the computers look like Atari’s, with command prompts and unconvincing icons for chess pieces. Maybe it’s a Commodore, but it certainly isn’t an Osborne—nor a TRS-80 either.
The story follows a soft-skinned geeky character named Peter, who gets drawn into all kinds of weird New Age sessions, and gradually gets invited into sexual situations with older couples.  The very end has a touch of horror, but he remains unscathed.
There is one five-minute color interlude in the middle of the film with granny.
Now, I think a documentary tracing how well computers can play chess would be interesting, but that isn’t what this film does.  In his recent book on openings describes how computers score chess positions today and can even play Monte Carlo simulations from positions (Books blog, July 6, 2012). 

The official site (Koch Lorber) is here
The film was shot in Austin, TX but uses New York license plates. 
The film is indeed “off the wall”.  It reminds me of a 1998 BW film made in Minneapolis “Cut Glass”, about a woman who stages accidents to get people to care for her. 

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