What is it about chess and movies? All of a sudden chess has become trendy. Last year we had “Brooklyn Castle.” And now, while that is still going around the indie movie circuit, here comes another chess movie, Computer Chess.
All I know about this movie is what I’ve read online. The concept sounds wonderful. It’s a low-budget movie about programmers at a computer chess tournament sometime in the early 1980s. The movie is shot on actual videocameras from that era, giving it an appropriate black-and-white, dated look. It is supposed to look as if we are seeing real footage from back then. The dialogue is unscripted. The actors playing the chess programmers are, for the most part, not actual actors, and a couple of them are bona fide geeks. Just look at the cast list:
- A documentary director, making his acting debut.
- A video game designer.
- A film editor, making her acting debut.
- A film studies professor, making his acting debut.
- A computer science professor, making his acting debut. “Recent projects include the Diderot language for parallel computing on tensor fields.” How often do you read a sentence like that in the press kit for a movie?
- A software developer, making his acting debut.
- A novelist, making his acting debut.
And I think that you have to consider the computers themselves to be co-stars, even if they are only props. They are the big clunky computers of yesteryear, with the old-fashioned monochrome CRTs that look as if they are one step removed from oscilloscopes. (Sigh. Those were the days.)
The movie is by a director named Andrew Bujalski, about whom I likewise only know what I have just read on the Internet tonight. He went to Harvard, he has made three previous feature films, and he is known as the founder of the “mumblecore” film genre, which basically means low-budget low-fi films with untrained actors, just like this one. This is his first film to show at the Sundance Film Festival. I may not know much about movies, but I know that’s kind of a big deal.
There is no indication on the Web page of when “Computer Chess” might start showing in theaters, but I can hardly wait!