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Bobby Fischer Against the World

A riveting documentary about an impossible man. Chess master Bobby Fischer's long, gangrenous decline into anti-Semitic bile hopelessly sullied his memory, but it is the feat of director Liz Garbus' work for the sports wing of HBO Films to resuscitate the man's initial power and grace. This is no easy task—even the suspense of Fischer's 1972 championship matches with Boris Spassky emerged chiefly from his bizarre refusal to show up for matches—but Bobby Fischer Against the World paints the man with great sympathy, carefully revealing how his self-loathing and psychosis was rooted in a childhood that deserves to be called tragic. The movie is also a lot of fun, featuring as it does a Russian folk ditty about Soviet chess superiority ("Steely are my muscles/ Oh, my fingers they're so long!") and a celebrity sketch artist with a mustache to rival Anchorman  character Brian Fantana's, but it is mostly a tense study of loneliness. Fischer, who in ’72 looked like Ryan Gosling in the role of Dirk Nowitzki, is shown reading the New York Post headlines trumpeting his victory—but he's sitting on a rock in the desolate Icelandic terrain, and this is as happy as his life will get. Working with the late Portland-native film editor Karen Schmeer, Garbus melds the testimony of chess experts and Fischer's former friends to create comprehensible explanations of complex chessboard strategies; their greater accomplishment is making the man himself reachable through images—none sadder than the shot of him alone at some European amusement park, flying in a little tin airplane. As Fischer is driven to abstraction, the film remains stubbornly humane.

Special Note

NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium, 7 pm Thursday and 4:30 pm Saturday, Sept. 22 & 24. Living Room Theaters.
  • Genres: Biography, Docudrama
  • Running Time: 90 minutes
  • Release Date: Thursday, September 22, 2011
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English
  • Critic's Score: 88
  • Directed by: Liz Garbus [Director], Sheila Nevins [Executive Producer], Martin Pieper [Executive Producer], Dan Cogan [Executive Producer], Nick Fraser [Executive Producer], Maja Hoffmann [Executive Producer], Philip Sheppard [Original Music], Robert Chappell [Cinematographer], Michael Levine [Film Editor], Karen Schmeer [Film Editor]
  • Watch the trailer

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  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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