“Computer Chess” is written and directed by Andrew Bujalski (Mutual Appreciation, Funny Ha Ha), who is known for his strange film making ideas. This is certainly no exception.
The film is set in the early 1980’s and revolves around one weekend at a conference where the current big names in programming bring their chess computers to do battle with those of their rivals.
We follow the various teams through their stay at the hotel and their endeavours in the competition. There is also another convention taking place at the same hotel, a new-age self-help group, whose presence should lend more humour to the piece, yet somehow manages not to.
“Computer Chess” is filmed almost entirely in black and white (with the exception of a very mixed up, blurred, loop sequence towards the end) and is pretty difficult to watch, mainly due to the fact that the camera is very rarely in focus and you’re constantly rubbing your eyes trying to clear it up.
This is billed as a comedy and although I can see where the elements of humour lie, it isn’t really that funny. It does do quite well at cringe making, however, which I’m sure is intentional, so well done with that part at least.
It is well written and well acted, by a cast of relative unknowns (except for Wiley Wiggins – Dazed And Confused, The Faculty), who are thrust into any number of socially awkward situations. I have a sneaking suspicion that this film is a pretty accurate representation of what actually went on at these kind of events.
There is an awful lot of dry as dust debates over programming and code and the opening scene is presented by a computer prompt. Essentially this is nerd humour at it’s nerdiest and although intelligent, will almost certainly be of extremely limited appeal.
There are plenty of special features available, including a look at some of the computers used in the film and some of the real computer chess matches which inspired it. There are also interviews with Andrew Bujalski, Wiley Wiggins and Alex Lipschultz.
If you happen to have been writing code for and creating chess computers in the 1980’s then you will almost certainly identify with this film. Otherwise, probably not.
“Computer Chess” is available to buy now on Dual Format (DVD and Blu-ray)