LIFF 2013 Part 3

Computer Chess (US) (site)

I had been hoping that this would be a warm-hearted documentary, using found footage from the early days of artificial intelligence in computing.  I figured it could be similar to the excellent chess documentary Bobby Fischer Against the World, the delicious Jiro Dreams of Sushi, or perhaps the surprisingly watchable Disco and Atomic War from some years ago.  Even the LIFF blurb intimates that this is a meditation on the subject.

It's somewhat disappointing to discover five minutes in (after a few minutes not being able to tell for sure either way) that this isn't the case, so if anything, I'm doing you a favour by telling you this.  Computer Chess is a The Office-style situation comedy presented as some long lost footage found in a dusty trunk, set sometime in the early eighties and using 4:3 ratio and low-resolution cameras to fool you into thinking it's the real thing.  It records the goings-on during and around a mock competition between computer companies at the time, as they pit their limit-pushing intelligence programs to the edge and beat each other at chess.

After the initial disappointment wore off and I adjusted my expectations, I did enjoy the film, but it is an odd trip; part stereotypical computer nerd nostalgia, part drug-induced hallucination, as the sound goes out of synch, frames are lost, and the computers themselves seem to come alive.  It's pretty good stuff but seems unnecessarily 'out there', and to be honest I would have traded the laughs for a more genuine documentary in it's place. 6/10

Cold Eyes (S. Kor) (wiki)

After an impossibly intricate recruitment test, spunky Young-Sook is taken out of the standard Korean police force and into a shadowy spy division, whose agent's specialise in walking through the crowded city streets and using their considerable observational skills to take every little detail in, using the cities extensive CCTV to record every movement.  She's just in time to investigate a bank robbery, the latest in a string of perfectly executed crimes that are keeping the police on their toes.

It's a little like Inception - a group of guys chosen for their abilities and all that; the standard detective movie conventions are followed as the group tracks the leads to their goal, and in a number of improbable situations and coincidences gets closer to the shadowy figure behind it all, But it's too clinical; too clean, making it difficult to look past the superhuman powers of observation and see the human characters behind, and the reliance on cameras to catch the bad guys make it feel like an advert for a surveillance state.

It's not bad with all that considered, but it needed to be a bit more.. human somehow. 7/10

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