Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
Canada/United Kingdom, 2003. Alliance Atlantis Communications, National Film Board of Canada. Cinematography by Maryse Alberti. Produced by Hal Vogel. Music by Rob Lane. Film Editing by David G. Hill. Toronto International Film Festival 2003.
In 1997, Grand Master chess player Garry Kasparov was invited to be part of the ultimate challenge: a game of chess against IBM’s supercomputer program Deep Blue, which had been designed to skilfully wage warfare against even the most impressive opponent on the chess board. Having played against an earlier version of the program and won, Kasparov, who is considered the greatest chess player to have ever lived, has no qualms about a rematch. The result, however, is a disastrous PR nightmare that challenges our notions of human superiority and the impending doom of corporate domination. Kasparov lost most of the games, finally storming off the playing field accusing the company of all manner of underhand tricks to beat him at his own game and demanding to know exactly what the program logs were for each game. Director Vikram Jayanti follows Kasparov around the site of the original competition, interviewing him about the match as well as getting information from the IBM programmers, journalists who took in the scene, chess experts and Kasparov’s manager about the entire ordeal. The subject still seems embittered by the entire experience, convinced that a human conspiracy was behind his defeat in the competition, though neither he nor the filmmaker ever make even a slight attempt to prove anything beyond hearsay evidence and rambling paranoid theories. The result, which also includes footage from earlier pivotal moments in the grand master’s career, is an artistically complex but unaffecting documentary that suffers from Jayanti’s dispassionate distance from his main subject. Use of footage from Raymond Bernard’s silent film Le Joueur d’echecs adds colour to the process, but doesn’t disguise the director’s inability to get any emotional rise out of the material or, subsequently, from his audience.