Andrew Bujalski's latest film is a wholly original slice of American indie
There is a scene towards the end of Andrew Bujalski’s latest idiosyncratic slice of America, where a chess programmer picks up an analog camcorder and begins to film the people in front of her. They sit still, awkwardly smiling and say nothing. Although a fleeting moment in the film, it’s one which encapsulates the musings of Bujalski, asking: is there a difference in nature between a chess programmer and a filmmaker? Aren’t both just trying to orchestrate something which has near infinite possibilities? In posing these questions he explores territory which flirts on the borders between the personal and universal, the abstract and real.
Computer Chess is set around the weekend of a chess programmer’s tournament in what can be assumed to be the early 1980s. We are shown the intimate relationships between the various misfit contestants, and how the exploratory nature of their work can be seen to capture the ethos of a generation which is effected by rapid technological advancements.
Although Bujalski has moved away from portraying the lives of aimless and neurotic early twenty-somethings, he’s still dealing with familiar issues. These programmers, regardless of the fact that they have stable jobs and a passion bordering on the religious, are still outsiders to a world which doesn’t quite have a place for them. Its hilarious yet sombre approach harks back to the world of Hal Hartley, whilst creating a wholly original and at times perplexing incarnation of American indie cinema. If Funny Ha Ha was Bujalski’s gambit, then the sophisticated Computer Chess certainly feels like an end game play.
Selected release from Fri 22 Nov.