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Computer Chess2013

  • 4.0
Set over the course of a weekend tournament for chess software programmers thirty-some years ago, COMPUTER CHESS transports viewers to a nostalgic moment when the contest between technology and the human spirit seemed a little more up for grabs. We get to know the eccentric geniuses possessed of the vision to teach a metal box to defeat man, literally, at his own game, laying the groundwork for artificial intelligence as we know it and will come to know it in the future.

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"...bounded only by the ambitious weirdness of its creator’s willingness to baffle, discombobulate, introduce unexpected new elements." - Vadim Rizov, Filmmaker Magazine


2 members like this review

For those of us in high school or college in the early '80s, this film will take you right back. I don't think I'd heard the phrase "encounter group" in more than 30 years (and I probably heard it on "All in the Family"). "Computer Chess" is making a lot of high-profile Best of 2013 lists, compiled, I suspect, by people around the same age as me.

This film is more than an exercise in nostalgia, though. It's both a gentle satire of the nerd and spiritual-growth subcultures of the time and, for me anyway, something of a lament for an era where intellectual and spiritual explorations for their own sake were valued more than they seem to be today.

The score uses Collie Ryan's music and that alone makes the film worth watching, but there's so much more to enjoy.

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Member Reviews (6)

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top reviewer

For those of us in high school or college in the early '80s, this film will take you right back. I don't think I'd heard the phrase "encounter group" in more than 30 years (and I probably heard it on "All in the Family"). "Computer Chess" is making a lot of high-profile Best of 2013 lists, compiled, I suspect, by people around the same age as me.

This film is more than an exercise in nostalgia, though. It's both a gentle satire of the nerd and spiritual-growth subcultures of the time and, for me anyway, something of a lament for an era where intellectual and spiritual explorations for their own sake were valued more than they seem to be today.

The score uses Collie Ryan's music and that alone makes the film worth watching, but there's so much more to enjoy.

2 members like this review
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top reviewer

Diane Arbus and David Lynch, couldn't have presented a better rcord than this. A contest between early computer programs(A.I.), and a "Chess master", but the bizzare and sleazy Hotel culture at the contest's Home Base. A carnival of personality types and a lone Woman. A drama, fraught with intellectual agression, at the dawn of the cyber epoch. It makes for a very surprizing and entertaining film, I recommend this film to everyone, but especially to folks born after 1960, to whom this is a rare hitorical record.

2 members like this review
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I had mixed feelings about "Computer Chess". It is extremely well made; it transports one to the awkward, tacky late 1970's or early 1980's as though it were a documentary. I'm not so certain whether it accomplished anything in its setting. There are many interesting or amusing moments, but none of the various plots (coming-of-age, science fiction, farce, the chess competition) seemed to me to stand out or to come to a conclusion or a satisfying climax. It's not the lack of emphasis of a single character or storyline ("Nashville" is quite similar to this film in many ways, but I greatly enjoyed it); perhaps it was the lo-fi, smoke-fogged aesthetic that kept this film from coming in to focus for me.

1 member likes this review

Geekdom at its most earnest and weirdest. Great time travel to when intimations, both hilarious and disturbing, of the strange new world to come were everywhere.

1 member likes this review
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Great production design and an interesting premise are wasted on grating, unsympathetic characters you can't wait to forget. Tries to banks on a head scratcher ending that I'm not sure has any meaning within the context of the rest of the film. Disappointing.

It begins offbeat and quaintly unassuming, that is until it descends into strange and absurd corners of a sharp and dark narrative. Touches of David Lynch to be sure, but this is a work of precision and specific voice, not an art school imitation. It takes you were it wants to go, and I was more than willing to follow it down this particular rabbit hole.