Computer Chess unfolds at a chess tournament in the 1980s, yet this comically alert film wants to explore more than some moves on a game board. Director Andrew Bujalski presents the film like it was shot on electronic film cameras from the era in a box format. The interaction between computer geeks who write software for computers to play chess and actual chess players strikes a chord about relationships in the way that closed communities operate.

In some ways Computer Chess reminded me of the current Zero Charisma, another gaming film with a cast of nerds but with a different focus. These chess experts aren’t limited to a mere 64 squares in their cosmology. Some of the programmers walk around the lobby carrying huge computer drives while others try to find a place to crash when the hotel loses their reservation. A lecturer holds forth on computer theory while his bespectacled assistant adjusts diagrams on an overhead projector. And perhaps there’s some hanky panky going on in the hotel rooms at night. The lodge certainly has no shortage of cats that wander the halls at will.

Computer Chess unwinds this Friday and Saturday night (November 1 & 2) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Director Bujalski and select members of the cast will appear in person for the Saturday night shows.

— Michael Bergeron