for Bobby Fischer/B+,B
story of a child chess prodigy may not sound like scintillating
movie material , but writer/director Steven Zaillian has
fashioned an exciting, crisply paced film that succeeds on a
number of levels.
attacks the board. ©Paramount
More than a film about a static board game, the heart of the
movie centers around the relationships between parents and
children. Many of the scenes at the chess tournaments are
painful to watch as the pressure from family squeezes the joy of
participation from these amazingly gifted kids. It's an easy
step from prodigies at the chess board to the little league or
the tennis courts where parents hover in the background often
taking a game too seriously. It was especially interesting watching Searching for Bobby
Fischer after coming home from a month long
tennis road trip of tournaments for my twelve year old daughter. We shared
some grand laughs in the scenes depicting the tense and erratic
behavior of parents. Even the best of parents must be constantly
vigilant about the pitfalls of stepping over the lines of
The performances are uniformly excellent.
Young Max Pomeranc has eyes that open into the heart and mind.
He's totally comfortable in front of the camera, and
considering all those close-ups, it's a good thing. Joe Mantegna
has a difficult task of finding some sympathy in a role that is
shaded with far too much blackened arrogance. Joan Allen
disappears into the role of Mom with her usual quiet perfection.
Laurence Fishburne's Washington Square chess wizard packs the
energy of two-minute chess games with a swifter patter than
imaginable. The one cipher is Ben Kingsley as Bruce
Pandolfini. Kingsley uses an accent that ranges from Irish to
English to off-center Brooklyn. I have no idea what the real
Pandolfini sounded like, but Ben's delivery threw me off.
Many of the filmed chess games depict speed chess, a variation
of the game that races with the clock and with rapid
editing, Zaillian bypasses the static element of the checkered
Zaillian's use of close-ups with little or no dialogue is
remarkable for its effectiveness. The photography by Conrad Hall
creates a natural atmosphere for the film to play out.
This is a very natural looking transfer
that suits the material well. The pressing is very clean and the
images sharp save for a few scenes where detail is slightly
smudged. There is no sign of edge enhancement and the colors are
natural and rich, realizing the warm palette of cinematographer
. The Dolby Digital 5:1 sound is rich and full, capturing the
action of the park sequences with excellent surround ambiance.
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