Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bobby Fischer on Film

ChessBase points us to two trailers on YouTube for new films about the late Bobby Fischer: Me and Bobby Fischer (see above) and Bobby Fischer Live (embedding disabled). The first is a disturbing but very interesting documentary focused on Fischer's life after his arrest in Japan and extradition to Iceland. The second is an even more disturbing -- for chessplayers anyway -- docudrama about Fischer's life that focuses on the roots of his dementia in childhood. Each tries to extend the story of the 1972 World Championship match in different directions, forward and back in time, to the endgame and the opening. My impression is that the documentary "Me and Bobby Fischer" holds some promise of adding new dimensions to the Fischer saga by depicting his time in Iceland, which is not captured by previous documentaries that I know. But I think that the morbidly melodramatic "Bobby Fischer Live" will simply drive chessplayers bonkers with inaccuracies and chessic blunders. Any chess player will see several problems in the trailer alone, beginning with the scene showing a teenage Fischer (already a rising master cum IM) reading Tarrasch's The Game of Chess -- while having to use a board no less!

Ultimately, I don't think the rather chaotic and incomprehensible story of Fischer's opening days and sad endgame can ever be as interesting as the perfectly structured real-life story of Fischer's middlegame full of miraculous triumph and mystery -- his rise to 1972 stardom and Garbo-like disappearance -- a story that is beautifully, mythicaly, and touchingly narrated in young Josh's voice in the black and white archival vignettes of Searching for Bobby Fischer (much of which is on YouTube), so that one wishes someone would just string those moments together as a stand-alone video. That's why I had been excited to hear that the book Bobby Fischer Goes to War, which offers a very well dramatized and well researched account of the events surrounding the 1972 match, was optioned by Universal Pictures, and that they had hired director Kevin MacDonald (Last King of Scotland) to film it. But the latest reports suggest that the project has been shelved due to the economic crisis.

Among the best Fischer films I have seen are "The Mad Genius of Bobby Fischer" (portions of which can be viewed on YouTube) and the excellent British documentary "Fischer vs. Spassky" (all of which appears to be available on YouTube). Both do a fairly good job of telling the story of the 1972 match through archival footage and interviews with figures of the time, including the very likable Boris Spassky. But it would be nice to see Fischer's story get the full Hollywood treatment.

There is some hope that Madman Genius: Bobby Fischer Found, to be directed by Liz Garbus for HBO, will offer something along these lines. According to the website:
Madman Genius will chronicle the bizarre and tragic life of an American hero turned outlaw, chess champion Bobby Fischer. Fischer's rise and fall echoed the demise of the Cold War World Order; without the black and white of the chessboard reflected in the 'real' world, Fischer, arguably the greatest chess player of all time, went insane. Novelistic in its story-telling, the film will chronicle the spectacular rise and fall of an American icon.
Fischer's story continues to fascinate us and I am sure that there will be a string of future films about him. However, it appears we will still have to wait for this incredible true story to receive the cinematic rendering that it deserves.

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Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

If the trailer is any indication, that looks awful. And they usually put the best parts in the trailer. :O

Mon Jun 08, 12:58:00 PM EDT  

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