If you believe The Dissolve and The AV Club, Computer Chess is one of the best films of 2013. I don’t entirely agree, but the film is appealingly different, an eccentric little movie filmed using (comparatively) ancient video cameras. It initially concerns a gaggle of geeks in the 1980s competing in a tournament pitting chess-playing computers against one another, but soon shudders, degrades and branches into a host of subplots involving sexually adventurous hippies, nervous nerds and one competitor who’s unable to find a room in which to sleep.
Stylistically the last half of the film is interesting, finding visual experimentation within its ancient aesthetics, but it all amounts to very little. The humour is quirky without really being funny, and there doesn’t seem to be a larger point to the proceedings. Mike D’Angelo argues that the film’s strength is that it doesn’t “construct some lumbering thesis,” but I personally found this a failing.
Nonetheless, I’d recommend Computer Chess. If nothing else, it’s a thoughtful portrayal of real nerds, defined by insularity – see: a programmer’s complete confusion when he’s asked what the “point” of his program is – and insecurity, clearly evidenced by the petty competiveness barely concealed beneath pretend politeness.