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Andrew W. Chan
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Hershell & Thadeus, two chess-playing brothers and their unhealthy rivalry over both the chessboard and a woman. Hershell is a chess purist, the prodigal son, Thadeus a disciplined, ruthless competitor. After 4 nomadic years in Europe, in quixotic pursuit of 'Jazz Chess' (chess for chess' sake, no winner, no loser, only beautiful positions), Hershell returns home. Thadeus is a successful but arrogant Canadian Chess Champion engaged to marry Marsha, Hershell's former sweetheart. Hershell challenges Thaddeus in the next Canadian Chess Championship. During the final match,Thadeus is flustered by Hershell's Zen-like demeanor, and sets himself up for certain defeat. But instead, Hershell uses the principle of Jazz Chess to force a draw. Marsha admires Hershell's selfless move, but leaves - she won't be either brothers' trophy. Written by
It's Syncopated! It's Radical! A Movie with an Offbeat Rhythm and Full of Dubious Moves
First and foremost, the star of this independent film is Chilly Gonzales. If you do not know who he is or what he does, I implore you to look him up first. His piano pop elevated the atmosphere of the film to an incredible level, and even if you have no care for the substance of the film itself, watch this film for the music alone.
And that substance is a Canadian Napoleon Dynamite-esque romp. Two brothers - Thaddeus and Herschel, compete in a battle of ideologies ("Chess is hate" and "Chess is love") over a mutually loved woman, Marsha. The spoils of the war known as chess are won by Herschel originally, which soon drives him into a spiral and causes him to lose his girlfriend, Marsha. The unrelenting rules of the game are then adopted by Thaddeus, who also succumbs to the game.
The film marries Gonzales's two apparent loves: music and chess. Specifically, "jazz chess" is a bright allusion to jazz itself, as a musical genre bending the well-defined structures of previous musical paradigms. The new style of how to play the game is seen as blasphemous, and Gonzales reminds us of the success associated with seeing things in a new light.
The quirky character of the film lends itself well; however, the execution was subpar. One must be cautious viewing any low-budget independent film, as the direction and film editing are off-putting. Likewise, Gonzales has moments of acting clarity...and other moments not. However, overall, Ivory Tower freely makes fun of itself and has fun doing so. If the viewers can appreciate the quirkiness, then they too might just be able to join in on the fun.
Checkmate. Checkmate. Checkmate.
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