Computer Chess (film)

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Computer Chess
Computer Chess.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndrew Bujalski
Produced byHouston King
Alex Lipschultz
Written byAndrew Bujalski
StarringPatrick Riester
Wiley Wiggins
Myles Paige
Robin Schwartz
Gerald Peary
Gordon Kindlmann
CinematographyMatthias Grunsky
Edited byAndrew Bujalski
Distributed byKino Lorber
Release date
  • January 21, 2013 (2013-01-21) (Sundance)
  • July 17, 2013 (2013-07-17) (United States)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States

Computer Chess is a 2013 independent comedy-drama film written and directed by Andrew Bujalski. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, and subsequently screened at such festivals as South by Southwest and the Maryland Film Festival.

It is Bujalski's second black-and-white film, and was shot with analog videocameras. It is more improvisatory than his previous films, with only an eight-page treatment for a script. Bujalski also cast nonprofessional actors who were knowledgeable in computer technology.

Plot summary[edit]

In 1980, an annual gathering of teams of idiosyncratic nerds compete in a nondescript California hotel to see which of their computer programs can best the others at computer chess. A grandmaster (Gerald Peary) presides as master of ceremonies with a videographer and microphone in tow. Clunky, primitive personal computers are carted from room to room. Bad haircuts, dorky shirts, “birth control glasses”, and other social impedimenta are ubiquitous. Bull sessions on the dystopian possibilities of artificial intelligence are pursued. The Pentagon's interest in the goings-on is intimated. The only female geek (Robin Schwartz) in attendance is repeatedly hailed and “welcomed” by the MC.

Simultaneously at the same hotel, a human potential movement group (the “seekers”) has occasional run-ins with the geeks, generating awkward and humorous moments. A painfully shy young computer programmer (Patrick Riester) attracts the interest of a swinging older couple (Cyndi Williams and Chris Doubek). The twin threads of “spiritual” exploration and cybernetic innovation imply an unspoken and implicit hidden connection. In a startling final scene, a prostitute — apparently solicited by the young programmer — reveals herself to be infinitely more than expected.



The movie has been well received and holds an 86% "certified fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[1] In The Village Voice, Aaron Hillis wrote that it was "the funniest, headiest, most playfully eccentric American indie of the year."[2] Mike D'Angelo of The A.V. Club raved that the film was "the year’s most singular and adventurous movie to date, to the point where it feels not so much original—a word that conveys a strong sense of craft—as it does “isolated,” as in a mutant strain of a virus. What’s more, it’s fun, generating pleasure not from canned jokes or clichéd plot twists but simply from a sense of unhindered freedom."[3]


  1. ^ "Computer Chess". Rotten Tomatoes. 2014-04-08. Retrieved 2014-08-02.
  2. ^ Aaron Hillis (2013-07-17). "Computer Chess Is the Funniest and Headiest American Indie of the Year". Village Voice. Retrieved 2014-08-02.
  3. ^ "Computer Chess". Retrieved 2015-11-17.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Robot & Frank
Alfred P. Sloan Prize Winner
Succeeded by
I Origins