Continue reading at Graffiti With Punctuation.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
SFF Review: Computer Chess (Andrew Bukalski, 2013)
Comprised of raw black and white images captured by an ancient Sony video camera, Computer Chess is pretty much what you would expect to see if you were an observer at a convention-come-tournament such as the one depicted in the film. During a boring panel discussion that opens the film, which has veteran computer chess programmers chat about the recent advances in technology and what went wrong at last year’s event, we can see some of their audience (also programmers, awkwardly assembled at a hotel for the weekend) drifting off. For a short while, I did too. The heavy use of jargon meant that I had little idea what they were talking about and I hoped it got more interesting…and fast. It does, trust me, but this is one of the fascinating things about this film and the reason it is unique. It fooled me.
I believed I was watching actual footage – buried deep in some archive and forgotten about, only to be resurrected and collaborated together – of a group of bespectacled tech nerds with poor social skills and bad haircuts interact and philosophize about the future of Artificial Intelligence and try to justify their personal obsessions not with chess, necessarily, but their desire to perfect their programs. But then I realized that it was all a recreation – a very authentic rendering of an early 80s era where a brash chess wiz remains adamant that a computer program was incapable of beating him, arranging the country’s best to get together and try. Perhaps past embarrassments will be eradicated. Who knows what will happen?