With so many acclaimed films coming out these days it is very easy to let a film or two slip through the cracks. Even with numerous awards (including the independent film centric Independent Spirit Awards) bringing attention to films I would have otherwise just ignored, I do find myself missing out on films others have praised in big ways. So it was a delight to be able to catch that a film titled Computer Chess was among the nominees at the Independent Spirit Awards as it scored nominations for Best Cinematography and the John Cassavetes Award. Despite its unmistakably indy vibe and budget, I decided to give Computer Chess a try and discovered it to be quite a solid film. It may not have many memorable characters, but Computer Chess’ dedication to its atmosphere makes it easy to watch.
Computer Chess follows a computer chess tournament during the 80s. With the rise of technology occurring at a rapid pace, contestants are trying to see if their computers can finally be the one that learns how to defeat a human in chess. The film is directed and written by Andrew Bujalski (who is considered one of the directors at the forefront of the mumblecore genre).
I find myself as someone who loathes the mumblecore genre. It just comes across as a gimmick and a gimmick that completely lessens the worth of the film at that. However, with this film Andrew Bujalski has seemingly decided against including his typical mumblecore sheen. Instead Bujalski tries to make Computer Chess look like a documentary from the 1980s era. Due to this Bujalski actually has to make his film look like an actual film. So even if this is a grainy black and white film there is a lot of technical work put into the look of this film. That goes a long way to making this film a success as it just adds to the film’s interesting atmosphere. Besides this aesthetic choice Bujalski also does a great job of capturing the mindset of humanity on its stance on technology during that time period. It raises some interesting questions and gives us an even more interesting perspective.
The acting in the film is also quite good. No one from the ensemble really sticks out, but that is probably for the best as it maintains the documentary-like atmosphere for the film. Nothing in the film is overly acted, and most of the acting feels completely natural.
Computer Chess is a solid film about the relationship between man and technology.