Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Video: COMPUTER CHESS ""

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


"Everything is not everything. There's more."
Andrew Bujalski's choice to shoot his latest film COMPUTER CHESS on the 1969 Sony AVC-3260 video camera may seem like an interesting stunt to some folks, but I gotta say that I kinda love it. From the very opening frames of the movie it really feels more like a time warp than any film in recent memory. It starts out feeling like you've somehow stumbled upon an intercepted cable access transmission from 1980 and it becomes something much more interesting, funny, surreal and transcendant. COMPUTER CHESS is not only nostalgic for those of us that have lived through the rise of computers to their current obligatory prominence, but it is also interestingly prophetic somehow in it's depiction of society on the cusp of said prominence. Bujalski's films have their own sort of meanderingly and conversationally philosophical way about them that I would perhaps compare to those of Richard Linklater. This movie might be his most Linklater-Ian to date. The presence of Wiley Wiggins here in the cast may certainly be a factor in contributing to that feeling, but there's more than that certainly. Bujalski's films aren't quite as focused as Linklater's but that's not at all a bad thing. Whilst listening to the characters in COMPUTER CHESS converse there's a certain almost hypnotic quality that starts to take over. They speak intelligently, debate with each other, insult each other and it is mesmerizing. The previously mentioned black & white video cinematography absolutely adds to that. It obviously creates this immediacy that makes the whole portrait of the convention very intimate. It really melds well with another aspect of Bujalski's style which is that his films are wonderfully observational to the point that they almost feel like they are just happening right there in front of us. He does a nice job of combining that observation with a real narrative and philosophical ideas that the resulting fabric is quite sublime.

Regarding the disc's Extra Features:
-The commentary by computer programmer Murray Campbell is quite interesting. He participated in many computer chess tournaments himself and even programmed Deep Blue which was the first computer to beat a world champion chess player..
He gives much insight into the real events he participated in, how the tournaments were run, and where and the kinds of folks who attended them(also how the events evolved over time). He also comments on the authenticity of the film and how it has a solid, almost documentary-like feel at the beginning. It's a nice, informative track and gives some context and historical perspective to the film and it's narrative. It's overall an enjoyable, educational commentary.
-Also interesting is the bonus commentary  with 'an enthusiastic stoner'(Ken Osborne?). It's rather silly and of course kind of pointless(as you might guess), but still amusing nonetheless.
-Additionally, there is a very short tutorial featurette regarding the 1969 Sony AVC-3260 video camera  with cinematographer Matthias Grunsky. It's pretty short(less than 5 mins) but is a neat little piece that shows off the very simple camera that the production had adapted for shooting the movie.
Lastly, these features are included as well:
• Crowdfunding plea video
• Sundance Film Festival promo
• 4 Computer Chess reference games 

COMPUTER CHESS is available now via Kino Lorber's site and Amazon:


Tommy Ross said...

well that write-up and description basically sold ME, I'm off to the races to hunt this sucker down...thanks!!

Rupert Pupkin said...

Nice, hope you dig it!

Anonymous said...

COMPUTER CHESS is certainly the most unique film I saw this year. It doesn't all work (the POV is kind of screwy and there is a lot of meandering), but, you really nailed it by saying how the experimental filming technique really gives it an authentic period feel.
This is definitely not a film for all viewers, but, that 1% of us who get it, will groove to it!