Sundance Review: “Computer Chess”

“Everything is not everything. There’s more.” From the clever set design and high concept camera work, from the delicately understated dialogue to the carefully crafted freak-outs, Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess is a film with everything and more (containing and relishing such paradoxes). The movie is a hilarious comedy and a nostalgic period piece, layered by multiple levels of metaphoric meaning and social critique.

Set in the early 80s at the dawn of the computer age, a group of uber-nerdy programmers (and fanboys) have gathered in a dingy hotel for an annual computer chess tournament. It’s an exciting year, because we’re closing in on the deadline predicted by the tournament founder for the date a computer will beat a human (the ominous 1984), and also because there’s a girl at the conference for the first time ever. Bujalski’s deft script dances with about half a dozen different story lines, each fully realized, dramatic and funny.

This completely masterful film is the rare film that is unfailingly entertaining and deeply insightful and intelligent. I’m hoping we can stage our own 80s computer tournament at Rooftop with the film this summer.