Computer Chess is an interesting attempt to capture the feelings of an other era(the 80s) through a simpler technology(Sony ATC-3260 tube camera).It's a paradox, because computer chess was about developing computer software programmes to take on human beings in games of chess.This film depicts a conference held in a hotel where different programmers meet in an annual tournament to find a winner.At the same time in the hotel there is a bizarre cult of seekers into sexual and spiritual awakening, using group awareness exercises. We are going back to the simpler forms of computer technology,when programmers instilled their intelligence levels up into a computing chess programme.It's the early form of artificial intelligence.The fact that it's in black and white is because of the technical limitation of video but it strangely enhances the beauty of effect,with dull/shallow focus,grey palette and the blooms and smears of light.Necessity the mother of invention.The documentary format the best way into this world,a homage to it.We also get the clunky machinery involved.
These nerd-voyagers are on the frontiers of new mental worlds.Their awkwardness showing their indifference to human reality,as the machines become more human,showing traits of consciousness and moods.Chess is really a Maguffin,since you do not actually see any games carried out in detail.Instead the film shows the point when human intelligence merges with computation,the eccentric frontier and its border guards,geniuses,weirdos,geeks of all persuasions,dope-freaks,conspiracy theorists,mavericks,folkies.There are times in the film that it seems a Magritte painting is coming to life,like where programmers become chess pieces,or hotel corridors look like something out of Last Year in Marienbad,the invasion of fluffy cats,and the strange robot woman in the lobby.
Peter Bishton(Reister) forms the film's central focus,reserved,introverted,awkward,floundering from one situation to the next,unable to express his anxieties,discomforts.His eye the still logical centre of the apocalyptic changes.The attempt of the one female in the tournament to flirt with him is funny.There is a sub-plot of a man, Papageorge,without a hotel room,bedding down wherever he can,ending up sleeping under a table in the conference room,where he is woken by a couples' therapy group and subjected to a rebirthing.There's also a mix-up where the chess players have to share the conference room with the new agers.A couple of swingers attempt to seduce Peter without success.Machine-man who avoids social development clashes with more liberated forms of social behaviour.Minorities like "the African" and "the woman" stick out like sore thumbs.
Drab realism mutates into surrealistic effects,blips.bleeps,jumps,split screens,speeded-up film,coloured loops of repeated footage.Machines fall victim to glitches;TSAR 3.0's propensity for `committing suicide',pointlessly sacrificing Queens or chasing after pawns.Inconsistencies move in like inserted bugs,with technical hiccups, bizarre shot choices,streaking,haloed images, contributing to narrative dysfunction.There is a strain of paranoia,the suspicion of spooks from the Pentagon,lurking about the competition,looking to apply these technologies to the military-industrial-complex. The idea of computer dating is nascent.To the classic mind the grid square is a liberating system with endless possibilities,butto the hippies this shows the limits of a square existence.In their way these oddball independents are struggling to break free of limited mind-sets and bereborn. An image of a camera pointing at the sun,mirrors the Icarus-like hubris of computer geeks overstretching their equipment to soar.Bujalski has made quite a film layered like a seed-bed,germinating thoughts long afterwards.