Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"bobby fischer against the world" documentary review

last night, "bobby fischer against the world," which premiered at the 2011 sundance film festival, was broadcast on hbo. in a word, it was fantastic! but in the interest of full disclosure, i must say that i'm a huge fan of bobby fischer the chess legend - and detest the hateful shell of a human being that he deteriorated into in the last decades of his life. it's this very duality that animates the view most people have of fischer - especially those who came to chess as a consequence of fischer's capture of the world championship in 1972.

the documentary, directed by liz garbus, is filled with archival clips of the young bobby fischer - inter spliced with modern day interviews with most of the cast of characters that unfolded across the years of fischer's active chess life. on of the most interesting people among the interviewees is anthony saidy - perhaps the person most responsible for physically getting bobby fischer to iceland for the match! the history of the fischer-spassky match is meticulously covered in dozens of books and other sources - but garbus does a fine job of relating it in the film.

for those unfamiliar with the storyline - it's no spoiler to disclose fischer won the match - the biggest concern among all those involved was whether or not fischer would actually deign to play the games! fischer's demands were endless - and he eventually arrived late for the first game, which he lost. fischer went ahead and forfeited the second game because he refused to play unless the organizers removed the t.v. cameras (the noise from them bothered him)! to come back from an 0-2 deficit, to win the world championship is the stuff of epics.

the line-up of interviews assembled by garbus is truly diverse. in addition to saidy, larry evans is another fischer confidant that adds to the material. garbus managed to interview henry kissenger - who called bobby fischer during his holdout to personally aske him to play. kissinger added to the cold war dynamic be insisting that fischer represented the united states and his participation was a matter of national interest. garbus also interview garry kasparov, a future wourld champion. fischer and kasparov never played against each other, but kasparov is probably the single chess player who could assume fischer's legendary mantle.

the documentary pulls no punches in describing fischer's descent into madness and hatred in the decades after the match. this part of his life is the most difficult to countenance. regardless of the twists and turns of his life - nothing justifies the monster he devolved into. in 1992, he ignored a u.s. embargo and played a "re-match" with spassky. that defiance earned him fugitive status with the united states - which only fueled his growing hatred of the united states. a decade later he was taken into custody at the tokyo airport - and would have been extradited to back here to face criminal charges, if not for iceland!

thanks to icelandic citizenship, fischer lived out the rest of his days in the country that rocketed him to the world championship. but even after his death in 2008, the fischer saga continues - in the form of a battle over his estate. that material is enough for another documentary! in the mean while, enjoy this one! it's a must see for any chess fan - and any child of the early 70's :D

1 comment:

Myriam said...

I remember that match. I was a kid and learned to play chess because of the championship. I never followed any news regarding Fischer. had not idea he had passed or what his life was like. thanks for the update