Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess was one of our favourite films of 2013. So it’s with that in mind, and with great satisfaction that we pore over the incredibly satisfying Masters Of Cinema dual-format release.
First things first; our review of the film can be found here. The film is tough to define by ordinary means, a feat shown up in typical fashion in the films extra material. Watch, as Bujalski attempts to sell the film to a studio exec, in the film’s pastiche Kickstarter pitch. Listen, as a pair of diverse audio commentaries, one from Murray Campbell, one of the inventor’s of Deep Blue, the most famous of all computer chess programmes, the other from Ken Osbourne, an “enthusiastic stoner”. Covet, the film’s exemplary situating artwork, hand drawn by one-time kingpin of the video game package, Cliff Spohn.
The pair of audio commentaries are insightful affairs. Campbell’s especially so (the convention around which Computer Chess takes place is very convincing apparently), while the second, courtesy of a man who credits himself as a representative of the Ken Osbourne Corporation, is a hive of misinformation. It’s actually quite difficult to believe that this second audio commentary isn’t an act (in fact we’re convinced it’s someone connected to the production), but regardless it makes for a worthy accompaniment.
Elsewhere the disc features over an hour of interview footage. There’s 20 mins with Wiley Wiggins and half an hour with Bujalski. Refreshingly Bujalski is a convincing presence. Gone are any worries of hipster posturing, with the director clearly a figure ground in conviction. In his interview he talks in great depth about the process of making Computer Chess referring to the camera as being “like an actor”, complete with it’s own quirks and glitches. Wiggins is an affable guy too, while a third interview with producer Alex Lipschultz runs to just over 21 minutes provides further insight.
A solid archive of the films unusual promotional campaign rounds out the disc. Hot Old Personal Computer #1 thru #6 is a video gallery of brief 30 second-long cryptic teasers for the film with each one focussing on a different device. Similarly in shape and tone is 8 Reference Chess Games, which runs to 45 mins. There’s also a 5 minute tutorial guide to using the unusual video cameras employed for the film as well as introductions from the Sundance and London Film Festival screenings of the film. One final extra of note is the 1-minute long Analog Goose short shot for The New York Times last year by Bujalski.
Capping it off is a 32 page booklet, featuring an essay from Masters of Cinema producer Craig Keller, as well as an array of behind the scenes photographs from the production. It’s a comprehensive package for a wonderful film, and one that very much rewards upon repeat viewings.