SIFF Take: Computer Chess

(n.b. Very little in this trailer is actually in the final cut of the film…)

It’s well-travelled territory to discuss how hip it is to call one’s self a nerd, meaning “I like superheroes or sci-fi,” “I wasn’t explicitly popular,” or “I like one thing a lot more than other people I know personally,” but pure nerds—socially inept people blissfully immersed in some sort of technical pursuit, with questionable grooming skills—remain decidedly unhip. Computer Chess is about those kind of nerds. I love those kind of nerds.

I think the director, Mumblecore-originator Andrew Bojalski, does too. He shot the whole thing on vintage equipment with mostly non-actors, and although there is plenty of chatting in rooms in a Mumblecore sort of way, the film also builds some interesting tension along the way. The film follows, Office-documentary-style, two conventions overlapping at the same crappy hotel over one 1980 weekend: a chess tournament between computer programs run by their developers and a Couple’s Encounter Group.

The movie isn’t especially brilliant or moving, but it’s funny. And it gets at some interesting ideas. The hero is so incredibly nerdy he’s all but inert, but he’s the only one with enough acuity to recognize that the computer he’s working on may be developing something like a personality. Meanwhile, the Encounter Group participants go around spreading their inner harmony and good will and socially inappropriateness all over everything like lawn sprinklers. Bojalski treads a wee bit closely to making fun of his ragtag group at times, but mostly he stays on the affectionate side.

{Computer Chess screens at the 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival on Friday, 5/31, 4:30pm at the Harvard Exit. Actor Myles Paige is scheduled to attend.} 

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