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Computer Chess DVD Review

Computer Chess DVD

“Computer Chess” is a noble experiment that doesn’t quite work.

“Computer Chess,” which can best be described as a cross between “The King of Kong” and the works of Christopher Guest, is an existential mockumentary of sorts. Set in an unspecified time period (presumably sometime in the 80’s), the film revolves around several groups of chess software programmers engaging in a computer chess tournament at a dingy hotel. While all of this is going on, another convention (a spiritual new age event) is taking place at the very same hotel. Naturally, one can expect these two stories to tie into one another.

Unlike most films, ‘Chess’ does not follow a traditional narrative nor does it really have any main characters. The story drifts from character to character and explores ideas and concepts about humanity, artificial intelligence, technology, rebirth, connections, man vs. machine, and social interactions.  While this may sound like a heady cinematic experience on paper, writer/director Andrew Bujalski does very little with the ideas presented in ‘Chess.’ For the entire running time, one gets the impression that the story is leading us somewhere, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. The movie merely ends abruptly on a surrealistic note before the credits roll. There’s no real closure for the characters nor do we get to know them much aside from some generally weird and awkward moments (mostly involving Peter and Papageorge) played for laughs.

Flaws aside, there is still much to admire here. The B&W documentary esque cinematography, the production design, the location shooting, the unique subject matter, and the naturalistic performances from a mostly unknown cast definitely draw you into this artsy, quirky, retro world.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.33:1. How does it look? The B&W film (which was shot with a 1969 Sony camera) has a very effective cinematography style. The visuals (glitches and all) are easily one of the best aspects of the film.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is of low quality, but that’s the point.

Extras:
* 3 trailers for “Computer Chess” and Sundance Film Festival promo.
* “1969 Sony AVC-3260 Video Camera Tutorial By DP Mathias Grunsky”- The director of photography chats about the old school camera that they shot “Computer Chess” with.
* “Hot Old Personal Computers”- A glimpse at 4 “hot” computers.
* “Crowdfunding Plea Video”- A comedic video in which writer/director Andrew Bujalski shows why he can’t pitch this movie to Hollywood executives.
* “4 computer Chess Reference Games”- 4 actual computer chess games from various years.

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November 15, 2013 - Posted by | DVD review |

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