Director Andrew Bujalski's visit to campus continues with this 2013 Wisconsin Film Festival favorite. Info
In a weekend that finds acclaimed indie director Andrew Bujalski visiting UW-Madison campus, he'll introduce and discuss two of his most popular features at the Cinematheque: His 2002 debut Funny Ha Ha and the 2013 Wisconsin Film Festival retro favorite Computer Chess. The latter is Bujalski's most confidently surrealistic venture, a 1980s period piece that dispenses with cliches in favor of comically cerebral fourth-wall-breaking and the progressive dissolution of its own analog reality.
The film begins rather innocuously as several coders (all men sans one Shelly Flintic, played by Robin Schwartz) convene at a nondescript Midwestern hotel for a computer chess tournament. As they all name their artificial intelligence programs that calculate various moves on a 64-square chess board, newscaster-like host Pat Henderson (film critic Gerald Peary) reveals the grand prize of $7,500, which is of slight importance compared to the true reward of besting him, a self-proclaimed "chess master."
From here, Computer Chess zeroes in on the nascent, bespectacled Peter Bishton (Patrick Riester), who incidentally uncovers hidden links between human desire and AI as he plunges into existential questions of the strategy game itself. These revelations become amusingly, awkwardly enmeshed with Peter's chance encounter with two married swingers and new age acolytes, Dave and Pauline (Chris Doubek and Cyndi Williams). In its latter half, the film transcends the boundaries of all genre labels, evoking everything from the crooked comic narratives of Charles Burns to Spike Jonze's Her, also released in 2013. —Grant Phipps