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by VinegarBob
Tue Oct 06, 2015 6:33 am
Forum: Movie-Specific
Topic: "Pawn Sacrifice"
Replies: 26
Views: 3043

Re: "Pawn Sacrifice"

ShogunRua wrote:I absolutely despised Searching for Bobby Fischer, and as leery as I am of Pawn Sacrifice[i], it doesn't sound one tenth as imbecilic, fake, and painfully stupid as the former picture. To compare it to another sport, [i]Searching for Bobby Fischer would be the equivalent of a 5 foot tall white kid who had played basketball for 3 months dominating everyone in the NBA by shooting three pointers from mid-court and making 90 percent of them. That's about how accurately they depict the game, Josh Waitzkin, etc.


lol...It's always more amusing reading scathing comments than praise. Yeah, it is a bit cliched at times, but there are so few films that focus on chess that I was willing to forgive it most of its faults. Honestly though, I don't think it's anywhere near as bad as you're suggesting. I actually think it's a very good film, all things considered. I would disagree with your sports analogy, as Waitzkin was only shown to be dominating (most) other kids around the same age as he, and adults who didn't really play chess. And he was shown losing quite a bit too. I agree they should probably have toned down the scenes where he does abnormally well against actual adult chess players, but that's just artistic license. These are always scenes in places where the games weren't recorded, and I can understand the temptation to exaggerate his talent here for dramatic purposes. Also, you have to remember that this film is based on the book that Josh's father Fred wrote (which I have read), and much of the film is seen through his eyes, so some of the exaggeration of Josh's talent for chess is partly a reflection of a lack of understanding of the game on the part of Fred, and partly pride in the (not inconsiderable) talent Josh did have - and there's no denying Waitzkin was very good for his age. Whether he was as saintly and Serwar as devilish as depicted is debatable.

I think the film's quite clever in that it's very chess-centric, but because it focuses on children, some of whom are learning, it's much more relatable and easier to digest for most people than it would have been were it about adults. And by focusing further on one child discovering he has a talent that his parents don't understand the film, while ostensibly about chess - a dry and cerebral subject - becomes much more human and approachable. It's an engrossing drama about the interesting family dynamics that arise because of this child's unusual talent. It's more a coming of age film than a chess film, really, and approached in that fashion is quite rewarding imo. Yes, names and details will have been changed (the final match result while technically accurate was not arrived at in quite the way it was depicted in the film for example), but considering the real kids involved at the time were kids and wouldn't necessarily be comfortable with their pre-pubescent chess failures being immortalised in a Hollywood film this is understandable. All things considered I think it's about as good of a film as it could realistically be, given the subject matter. The direction is solid and most of the performances are great: Joe Mantegna, William H. Macy, Laurence Fishburne etc.

Interestingly, the kid Josh ends up facing off against in the championship at the end of the film (Jonathan Poe in the film - Jeff Sarwer was the kid the character was based on) sounds like he would have been a much more suitable candidate to be compared favourably to a young Bobby Fischer than Waitzkin, and has had a fascinating life that would make for a great film to boot. But whereas one parent wrote a book about his kid's talent, the other abused his and went to great lengths to stop him playing chess. Ultimately neither child has become a grandmaster. Waitzkin is an IM, though no longer plays competitively, and Sarwer recently achieved an IM norm after a long absence from the game. Funny how things turn out.

ShogunRua wrote:As for The Luzhin Defense, I just really want to read the book, since I'm a huge Nabokov fan.


The book is excellent.

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