Home  >  Movies & TV  >  Movie Reviews

Movie & TV Reviews

Movie review: ‘Computer Chess’

Posted 4:42pm on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013

Unrated; 91 min.

Shot with a boxy, old Sony Portapak video cam, Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess is a deadpan mock-documentary about an early-’80s gathering of programming nerds, arguing about AI and predictive algorithms and showing off questionable fashion choices and facial hair.

At a certain point, Bujalski — the mumblecore meister, gleefully pushing the envelope of credulity here — jettisons the mock-doc pretense for a Christopher Guest-like glimpse into a strange subculture of the everyday.

The setting is a nondescript hotel. The people are geeks from MIT and the U.K., tapping code into their clunky machines in a contest that pits computer against computer in an epic chess match.

They’re mostly guys, of course, though there is Shelly Flintic (Robin Schwartz), the tournament’s first female programmer. Mike Papageorge (Myles Paige), a blowhard who doesn’t have a room (his quest for a bed turns into a running joke), is one of the socially challenged males trying to put the moves on her.

And then there’s the group-encounter couples who have booked the hotel’s conference rooms, too. Painfully shy boy brainiac Peter Bishton (Patrick Riester) gets invited up to a swinging husband and wife’s room — they think these newfangled computers are fascinating! — for a friendly chat. It does not end well.

A wandering cat and a mysterious hooker add elements of David Lynch-ian weirdness to the proceedings, which have been captured in fuzzy black-and-white. Except for a stretch that’s in color, that is — just another thing to throw things happily out of whack.

Exclusive: The Texas Theatre, Dallas

— Steven Rea, The Philadelphia Inquirer

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?

Hey there. or join DFW.com. Your account. Log out.

Remember me

We now have a new, simpler way for you to enter and search for events, at listings.dfw.com. As always, when you submit an event to appear online, it will also be available for us in our print publication. But now you can simply enter your event and provide an email address, rather than creating a separate account and registering. Our new listings tool is still a work in progress, so we appreciate your patience as we fine-tune it. Please contact us at hsvokos@dfw.com if you have any questions or concerns.