At the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, the Alfred P. Sloan feature film prize for "outstanding feature films focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character" went to Andrew Bujalski's Computer Chess. Bujalski's film, a smeary and surreal B&W early-video shot look at a group of computer scientists descending on a nondescript hotel for a machine chess convention, upended his reputation as progenitor of the justly unloved mumblecore movement. Though his Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation exhibited the usual hallmarks of that era of filmmaking (extreme low budgets, inept conversationalists, shaggy haircuts, too much aimless hanging out), both of those films hinted at a sensibility more outré than most of his contemporaries and Computer Chess, which expertly confuses documentary and fiction before evaporating into an unclassifiable stream-of-consciousness montage, feels the work of a filmmaker consciously trying to step out a bit.
Computer Chess is a deeply strange film, but it's also quite hysterical and often ingenious. If you missed its run at the Film Forum, you can check it out this weekend at Museum of the Moving Image where it screens at part of Curator's Choice: The Best of 2013 on Sunday at 2:00PM. Also included in the series are Leviathan, A Touch of Sin, The Grandmaster, Viola and Museum Hours, worthy films all.