Wiley Wiggins

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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Criterion Files

When I write this column, I typically don’t get the opportunity to write about movies from my teen years. I, like many, came into a cinephilic love for art and foreign cinema during college, and in that process grew to appreciate The Criterion Collection. Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993), however, is a movie that’s followed me through various changes in my life for (I’m just now realizing as I write this) about half of my time thus far spent on Earth.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B


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