Computer Chess (2013)

Computer Chess

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.

Rating: 155/200

10 thoughts on “Computer Chess (2013)

  1. Good review. I have this in my Netflix queue. Just haven’t watched it yet. Yours is positive enough that I’m not taking it off the list. And negative enough that I’m no hurry to get to it. 🙂

    • Yeah, that’s about right. It’s not a waste of an hour and a half by a long shot – it’s a good film – but I don’t think it’ll blow your socks off either. Thanks.

  2. I’m in a similar boat with Computer Chess. I admire the style and think it’s an original movie, but I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites of the year. I struggled with the pace and staying engaged with the characters. I’m a little surprised to see it showing up so high on some “best of” lists, but I can see the appeal.

    • I think a lot of the acclaim for the film comes from full-time film critics (the kind of people who see hundreds of new films a year) and I think it might come from how much it feels like a breath of fresh air: innovative choice to film on old-school video, lack of a clear message, a very different tone – it stands apart from the films around it, but I don’t know that originality is enough for me. Still, a film I’ll likely revisit, and perhaps I’ll come to appreciate what other critics are seeing on a second viewing.

  3. Pingback: Results (2015) | ccpopculture

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