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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to the future:liberation of the sixty four squared grid.
Computer Chess is an interesting attempt to capture the feelings of an other era(the 80s) through a simpler technology(Sony ATC-3260 tube camera).It's a paradox, because computer chess was about developing computer software programmes to take on human beings in games of chess.This film depicts a conference held in a hotel where different programmers meet in an annual...
Published 4 months ago by technoguy

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars ... expecting more - the characters are all a bit dull, very little happens and other than eliciting a ...
Was expecting more - the characters are all a bit dull, very little happens and other than eliciting a few odd smiles here and there, really isn't very funny.
Published 1 month ago by MrStillwater


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to the future:liberation of the sixty four squared grid., 7 May 2014
By 
technoguy "jack" (Rugby) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Computer Chess (Masters of Cinema) (DVD & BLU-RAY DUAL FORMAT) (Blu-ray)
Computer Chess is an interesting attempt to capture the feelings of an other era(the 80s) through a simpler technology(Sony ATC-3260 tube camera).It's a paradox, because computer chess was about developing computer software programmes to take on human beings in games of chess.This film depicts a conference held in a hotel where different programmers meet in an annual tournament to find a winner.At the same time in the hotel there is a bizarre cult of seekers into sexual and spiritual awakening, using group awareness exercises. We are going back to the simpler forms of computer technology,when programmers instilled their intelligence levels up into a computing chess programme.It's the early form of artificial intelligence.The fact that it's in black and white is because of the technical limitation of video but it strangely enhances the beauty of effect,with dull/shallow focus,grey palette and the blooms and smears of light.Necessity the mother of invention.The documentary format the best way into this world,a homage to it.We also get the clunky machinery involved.

These nerd-voyagers are on the frontiers of new mental worlds.Their awkwardness showing their indifference to human reality,as the machines become more human,showing traits of consciousness and moods.Chess is really a Maguffin,since you do not actually see any games carried out in detail.Instead the film shows the point when human intelligence merges with computation,the eccentric frontier and its border guards,geniuses, weirdos, geeks of all persuasions,dope-freaks,conspiracy theorists,mavericks,folkies.There are times in the film that it seems a Magritte painting is coming to life,like where programmers become chess pieces,or hotel corridors look like something out of Last Year in Marienbad, the invasion of fluffy cats,and the strange robot woman in the lobby.

Peter Bishton(Reister) forms the film's central focus,reserved,introverted,awkward,floundering from one situation to the next,unable to express his anxieties,discomforts.His eye the still logical centre of the apocalyptic changes.The attempt of the one female in the tournament to flirt with him is funny.There is a sub-plot of a man, Papageorge,without a hotel room,bedding down wherever he can,ending up sleeping under a table in the conference room,where he is woken by a couples' therapy group and subjected to a rebirthing.There's also a mix-up where the chess players have to share the conference room with the new agers.A couple of swingers attempt to seduce Peter without success.Machine-man who avoids social development clashes with more liberated forms of social behaviour. Minorities like "the African" and "the woman" stick out like sore thumbs.

Drab realism mutates into surrealistic effects,blips.bleeps,jumps,split screens,speeded-up film,coloured loops of repeated footage. Machines fall victim to glitches;TSAR 3.0's propensity for `committing suicide',pointlessly sacrificing Queens or chasing after pawns.Inconsistencies move in like inserted bugs,with technical hiccups, bizarre shot choices,streaking,haloed images,contributing to narrative dysfunction.There is a strain of paranoia. the suspicion of spooks from the Pentagon,lurking about the competition,looking to apply these technologies to the military-industrial-complex. The idea of computer dating is nascent.To the classic mind the grid square is a liberating system with endless possibilities,but to the hippies this shows the limits of a square existence.In their way these oddball independents are struggling to break free of limited mind-sets and be reborn.An image of a camera pointing at the sun,mirrors the Icarus-like hubris of computer geeks overstretching their equipment to soar imperfectly.Bujalski has made quite a film layered like a seed-bed,germinating thoughts long afterwards.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What happens? Well..., 8 Feb 2014
By 
Ian Watters "lovingboth" (Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Computer Chess (Masters of Cinema) (DVD & BLU-RAY DUAL FORMAT) (Blu-ray)
It's the early 80s, and a computer chess championship is being held at the same hotel as a new age workshop. Two bunches of oddballs in the same place... are they going to affect each other?

The thing that will probably determine whether or not you will enjoy it is knowing that it's a 'mumblecore' film, filmed on location, at least some of it with a 1980s video camera, with a cast you probably won't have heard of. There's lots of talk and not much action - the answer to the question 'what happens?' is 'not much!' You could blink and miss some of the most significant bits. In fact, it's almost dreamlike in places, but for me those are the best bits.

If you know about computer chess, you won't learn anything new and will be able to spot a couple of small technical mistakes, but you'll also recognise that some of it is absolutely spot on. It captures the chatter during a computer chess tournament, for example. (The players aren't going to be distracted from their thinking!) It has the person announcing that his program does things in a 'human' way and declaring how much better than everyone else it will be... and it losing. It also has some of the delightfully 'eccentric' personality types involved - this is the source of it being labelled a comedy, and it's a character piece rather than one with jokes.

Pat Henderson, shown as probably the sanest of the men, is clearly based on David Levy, the chess International Master (not Grandmaster - it's a sign of how far off programs were from beating the world champion that they couldn't even beat Levy in a match until 1989) who had the famous bet and who commentates at events. They do miss his endearing habit, when a program made a bad move, of asking its programmers why it had done that. When they said they didn't know, he'd loudly announce 'They don't know why their program did that...' I can guess the inspiration of a couple of the incidents too.

So it depends on how much you like mumblecore. I wouldn't have paid to see this if it weren't for the subject. I'm not sure I will ever watch it again, but it will probably stay in my mind long after I have forgotten most of the Hollywood films I've seen this past year...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The most oddball slice of genius you'll see this year......, 24 April 2014
By 
C Schalck "Carlos The DJ" (Denton, East Sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Computer Chess (Masters of Cinema) (DVD & BLU-RAY DUAL FORMAT) (Blu-ray)
I can't really give this film the justice it deserves - anything I write doesn't feel quite on the button.

Jokes about 1980s programming languages, swingers, drugs and chess all in one movie? And it works?

Oh it does work. It works in spades.

Just go with it and get sucked-in for 90 minutes - you may not get it, but you won't regret it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Clever and original, if uneven, 31 July 2014
By 
K. Gordon - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Computer Chess (Masters of Cinema) (DVD & BLU-RAY DUAL FORMAT) (Blu-ray)
This low key mockumentary is so dry in it’s humor that it’s more likely to produce a nostalgic or rueful smile than a belly laugh. Set at a 1980s man vs. computer chess competition, and shot on what looks like a video camera from the time, it certainly succeeds in capturing a time, place and atmosphere.

On the other hand, some of it starts to get a bit repetitive and meandering. Unlike Christopher Guest’s hysterical mockumentaries, this is so close to ‘real’ for much of it’s length that it started to wear down a bit. And then when it switches to a more ‘over-the-top’ tone, as when one of the young leads is hit on by a pair of middle-aged swingers, it suddenly feels like a scene from another film.

None-the-less, this is an impressive accomplishment, using it’s lack of budget as a plus to create the feel of a truly home made documentary of the time. It may not be brilliant, but it’s sweet, inventive, and fun, which puts it well ahead of most of what’s out there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars ... expecting more - the characters are all a bit dull, very little happens and other than eliciting a ..., 21 July 2014
This review is from: Computer Chess (Blu-ray)
Was expecting more - the characters are all a bit dull, very little happens and other than eliciting a few odd smiles here and there, really isn't very funny.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars huh?, 25 Mar 2014
This review is from: Computer Chess (Blu-ray)
i don't really get the point of this film I didn't find its "quirky" characters very funny and it was all actually a bit dull. Maybe i was expecting something more like This is Spinal Tap or Best in Show which were genuinely funny, with characters you wanted to see more of. With half an hour to go on this I really didn't care about any of them and it was a relief when it finished
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique voice, destined for cultdom, 27 Jan 2014
By 
Martin Smith "musicbymartin" (The Industrial North) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Computer Chess (Masters of Cinema) (DVD & BLU-RAY DUAL FORMAT) (Blu-ray)
There are very mixed reviews of this movie around, ranging from disappointed chess players ("I was expecting more chess") to those unsettled by the subtle, labyrinthine plot and those expecting the jokes to be announced.

Approach it with no of those preconceptions, and there are many delights to be had.

Shot on an early Sony video camera, circa 1975, it has a fuzzy, lo-rez vibe and the image sparkles with artifacts. Subsequently you'll become lost in the time period, it will be very easy to believe you're in 1979. The excellent production design, particularly clothes, hair, computers and motel rooms add to this. There is much fun to be had watching these computer pioneers develop what they believe the future of computers to be (one character astutely speculates that in the future computers may assist dating - how little they realized!)

Then there's the humour - this really is a hilarious movie, from character comedy (like the guy who turns up to the chess tournament, neither a computer geek or chess buff, purely to buzz off the vibe and ends up getting all the geeks high) to superbly surreal situations (the one guy who can't get a hotel room ends up knocking on random doors, tries to seduce women just to sleep on their floors and ends up caught up in the throes of a new age self-help / swingers group). It's subtle stuff, though, Hangover this ain't!)

The arc of the movie contrasts the geeky logical outlook with the new age-rs "be yourself, love everyone" philosophy, giving us a way-out-there (and unexpected) conclusion. This is highlighted by the schizophrenic nature of the soundtrack Morgan Coy's analogue bleeps and what sounds like blues on a player piano contrasted with some lovely folky acoustic songs by Collie Ryan.

The Blu Ray looks fabulous, and the special features provide a lot of interesting background and value for money.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The ponderousness of the many individuals seems to stretch to the whole film, 2 Feb 2014
Andrew Bujalski's ‘Computer Chess’ creates a fictional account of the dawn of computers in the early 1980’s, shot in a mockumentary style using the same grainy video cameras used at the time.

The film is set in a hotel where a chess tournament with a difference is held,where computer geeks pit their own chess software programs against each other. This round-robin tournament ends with the overall winner getting the chance to test his or her chess program against a real grandmaster, who has never been beaten.

Bujalski amps up the geek-ratio to the maximum, a horde of awkward big brains intent on understanding computers, technology and the even bigger issues of artificial intelligence. This was a time prior to mass-produced computers, where incredibly patient computer engineers and programmers created unwieldly and clunky computers and software which are by todays standards practically archaic.

Bujalski doesn’t concentrate too much on the tournament, ‘Computer Chess’ digs deeper into the minds of the people behind the machines. There is also a sub-plot where the hotel also hosts a creepy new-age know-thyself group, some of whom seem to be swinging singles. A meeting of ‘minds’ between these two very different camps is inevitable, by which point you realise this is more of a comedy. Things get weirder still when alternative realities gets thrown into the mix. All very 1980’s.

‘Computer Chess’ had the ingredients for a good film, certainly a good comedy, but its a dull film filled with inert and often cliched characters. Theres also way too many, though very subtle, references to other films mostly of that era. The film has a snapshot approach where it hints at so many technological issues, many of which are hotly topical today such as mass surveillance and the governments role in shaping this new computer world.

The whole film is played out with so much dry wit that you often forget its a comedy, the ponderousness of the many individuals seems to stretch to the whole film. The sub-plots seem contrived and it all adds up to a film with no direction or purpose, leaving you utterly bored by the end.

Rating 3/10
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