Andrew Bujalski

ComputerChess1

I’ve never seen an Andrew Bujalski film before, but I loved his new film Computer Chess, which I’m told is something of a departure for the independent filmmaker. It’s funny, bizarre, and utterly original. It’s the type of film that introduces a type of funny that you didn’t know existed, that isn’t based in popular culture or punchlines or pratfalls or virtually anything that we’ve seen before. The movie has resonances of familiarity (as indicated by the title of this review) but also continuously subverts any potential means of access, constantly remaking itself as it progresses along. Computer Chess moves freely from a mockumentary artifact to a Lynchian, low-fi comedy of oddities, revisiting a range of topics including go-nowhere academia, post-counterculture free love, late Cold War-era politics, and conspiracy theories. It’s an ‘80s period piece, but it never feels nostalgic or hip. It exhibits incredible verisimilitude to its time and subject matter, but at the same time builds its own autonomous world. It’s the weird kind of funny, but it’s never too discomfiting or alienating or quirky or self-aware . Computer Chess feels like a return to the golden era of ‘80s and ‘90s American independent filmmaking – not a place for Hollywood’s refugees, but a place where American films are created as if Hollywood never existed.

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Computer Chess

Many who have seen Computer Chess — either during its Sundance, SXSW or other festival runs — don’t seem to know what to make of it. On the surface, it’s a remarkably faithful recreation of a time three decades before nerd culture was co-opted as cool. On the surface, it’s a documentary-aping narrative that covers a chess tournament meant to hone the code that will see a system eventually beat a man at an ancient game. A little bit deeper than the surface, things get weird. Written and directed by Andrew Bujalski (Funny Ha Ha) and starring Wiley Wiggins (which is apparently not the only Linklaterian element), maybe you can figure it out by watching the trailer:

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Austin Cinematic Limits

I received ton of emails after my “What Works for Austin Filmmakers?” post last week, which provided me with motivation to continue on with part two this week. One thing is obvious, this is a very touchy and emotional subject. Several filmmakers contacted me with their personal insights, all of which will appear one way or another in this or subsequent posts. Some emails were critical of certain members of the local film community, but I will not mention anyone’s names. My goal is to do whatever I can to help foster a more supportive and successful film community, so I am not here to get in the middle of any personal grievances. I do think there is a certain level of validity in many of the claims, but I will keep the criticisms as general as possible. So, I ended my last post with my thoughts on micro-budget genre films and promised to discuss comedies next. Comedies have long been a part of micro-budget filmmaking (especially student films), but most of the time these comedies lack a strong script and passable production quality. Austin is extremely lucky in that it has a very talented go-to pool of comedic actors (I’m looking at you, Chris Doubek, John Merriman, Kerri Lendo, Ashley Spillers, Heather Kafka, Kelli Bland, Paul Gordon and everyone else whom I am forgetting at this particular juncture), but its the films with impressive writing and production values that have historically achieved a higher level of success. This is how […]

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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