Tuesday, December 23, 2008

That Rare Chess Movie

I was so intrigued by Arne Moll's review that I actually bought the book "Philosophy Looks at Chess" (PLC) last Saturday (along with E.H. Gombrich's "The Story of Art", as I've decided to study art history) and immediately began to read a couple of chapters. Anyway, this post isn't about that book at all, but about a movie. A chess movie!

For the time being let me just quote a short fragment from Stuart Rachels' chapter in PLC entitled, "The Reviled Art". Rachels, himself an international master and former joint winner of the US Chess Championships (in 1989, with Roman Dzindzichashvili and Yasser Seirawan), essentially laments the poor PR that chess suffers in the mind of the wider public. He writes, for example:

Consider how chess is portrayed in our culture. If you want to define a character as a nerd, mention that he's a chess player. If you want a movie, book, or play to do badly, even a good one, center it around chess. Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) was an excellent movie, but its box-office sales were poor. Since then, I can name only one movie in which chess was prominently featured.

Well, budding film-maker Matthew Thistle should take note!

Ex-Adelaide man Matthew, now living in the US, emailed me a few weeks ago with a draft copy of his pet project - a film he calls simply, "The 64 Squares". The story, he tells me, is about a "psychically aware but troubled ex-world chess champion, [who] crawls his way off the streets [of Sydney] to triumph over himself and play the Machiavellian world number one in a last extraordinary game."

I've not read the entire script but from what I've seen, the project looks and sounds interesting. During his research phase Matthew actually spent some time in Sydney's Hyde Park meeting some of the local regulars including a Vietnamese bloke, whom I've known for years, named Parramatta. Yes, that really is the guy's name! It's no surprise then that a number of characters in the film closely resemble those in real life. Even some well-known local masters, too, make an appearance, if only in the script.

Here's a little fragment from the opening scene wherein our protagonist, Oleg Vidovich, is just waking up from another night of heavy boozing. He is being pestered by Parramatta for a few games of chess.

Oleg squints, his furrowed face calms with breathing. Distracted by an intense, BLUE GLOW flickering around Parramatta’s skin. Superimposed, subliminal chess POSITIONS FLASH on a GLOWING BOARD during lagging blinks.

Oleg shakes it away, wincing at the light massaging his temples, taking in his dismal surroundings.

(in Bosnian; subtitled)
Oleg! If only Zaynab saw you now.

Damn eet! What wRong with you? Don’t you ever stop?

When you no drink!
This Boooou’shi’!. You play nAOw!

Blink. No more blue. Oleg sighs.

You vant to play? Have to pay patzer!

Furious, Parramatta rips out two crumpled fivers, flinging them with sharp tonal glottal stops.

(in Vietnamese; subtitled)
Over the hill bloodsucker!

Surprised, Oleg staggers up, counting the notes with magnified licks of his fingers, gauging Parramatta's response and pockets them, shaking his finger.

Now, now, be thankful, Para. Used to bee ten thouzand once.

Spying the bottle, he reaches down, fingers outstretched. Parramatta kicks it away in a glass PINGING RACKET.

At this time Matthew is just reworking the final act which, of course, involves a crucial over-the-board battle. He promises a "very trippy surprise ending". Well, now even I can't wait to see this thing up on the big screen! There's just one important hurdle: finance. Any millionaires out there with a couple of million dollars to spare and who'd like a rare chess movie to be made? Let me know and we'll gladly put you in touch with Matthew.


BlunderProne said...

Have you ever considered The Luzhin defense? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Luzhin_Defence

It's based on a novel by Vladimir Nobokov titled The Defense and loosely based on teh tragic Life of Curt Von Bardeleben ( my post about this player at Hastings 1895: http://blunderprone.blogspot.com/2008/08/hastings-1895-curt-von-bardeleben.html).

I tricked my wife into seeing this one as it had all teh makings of a "chick flick".

The Closet Grandmaster said...

Yep, I am aware of this film. But, like Rachels, I've never seen it! Rachels actually admits this in the endnotes although, of course, I don't know if he saw the film since he wrote the article.


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