Dangerous Moves (1984) Poster

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The Cold War in a chess game
paulo BH19 September 1999
Disputing the world title of chess, sit down in chairs opposite two soviets. However, none of the two is Russian: one of them, the champion, is Jewish. The other, the challenger, is a Lithuanian, political exile that is refugee in another country. This game will be a mirror of the Cold War: each movement is dangerous, each play is strategically important. Who is the best? The communist Jew, obedient to the Soviet state, or the Lithuanian traitor, enemy of the proletarian revolution? A beautiful end, where the game in itself has, for both, a larger importance than the world title and they consequences. A good film, with reasonable tension, great representative of the rare Swiss movies.
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A major disappointment!
AndrePhilidor23 August 2003
A well filmed movie of the tense contest for the World Championship between Soviet player Akiva Liebeskind (undoubtedly modeled after International Grandmaster Akiba Rubenstein, a magnificent master of the endgame, originally a rabbinical student in Poland who never quite made it to the World Championship level and declined into mental illness), and Liebeskind's challenger, Grandmaster Pavius Fromm (almost certainly named after "From" of the From's Gambit in chess). Fromm, a Lithuanian political exile from behind the Iron Curtain, is an arrogant dislikeable pawn of the Soviets who have kept his wife prisoner. Virtually unrecognizable are their wives, the once lovely Leslie Caron and Swedish star Liv Ullman who have little more than bit parts.

Personally, as a chessplayer who has been struggling to find the secret of chess for almost 30 years, it was made clear that Grandmasters of chess see farther than us ordinary mortals when Liebeskind analyzes his strategy to win the next game with the final coup by moving a Rook to the square G10! (The chessboard has only 8x8 squares.) Many incidents from the real history of chess are keyed into the script. When analyzing a game with his team, he objects to a player putting a cigarette to his mouth. "But it is not lit!" his friend replies. "Yes," says Liebeskind, "but it is well known that in chess the threat is greater than the execution". A quote right from Emmanuel Lasker, World Champion for 27 years. And this actualy occurred in a top level chess match when a player put an unlit cigar in his mouth, and his opponent protested.

When each player's team brings in a parapsychologist to stare down or even hypnotize his the opponent, there are vigorous protests. Exactly what happened in a match in Baguio City, the Phillipines when World Champion Anatoly Karpov's team brought parapsychologist Dr. Zharkov from Moscow to stare down the challenger, dissident and escapee from the Soviet Union, Viktor Korchnoi. (Korchnoi lost the match.)

In the end, I found the script of this move poorly written, disappointing in the ending, well acted and portraying the world of chess and a World Championship contest reasonably well. One jarring note was the large number and rows of empty seats in the auditorium where the World Championship was being played. In the real world, every seat would have been taken and overflow audiences would have been in auxiliary rooms watching on TV with commentary from other GM's unheard by the players. Did the producers just try to save a few pennies but not hiring enough extras to fill the seats? Hard to understand when clearly this was an expensive and lavish film portrayal of a World Chess Championship.

Almost a good movie. As a long time chessplayer, I am glad I watched it. I cannot recommend it as worthwhile for general audiences.
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One of the best films I have ever seen
nchapron20 July 2001
I saw this film when it came out in 1984, and since then, have been unable to forget it. I have been looking for it everywhere, from shops to the Internet without success. It seemed to have disappeared from the surface of the Earth. Finally, ARTE, a French/German TV channel, decided to broadcast it two months ago...and of course, I recorded it. It is based around a very simple storyline. A chess match. The two main players in the world. Both russians. Two generations fighting against each other, and also two visions of the world. The oldest generation who stayed and endured the last 50 years of Russian history. The younger one who left, but not unscathed. For them, only one thing matters : Chess, but for the outside world, and their entourage, many other things come into account: propaganda, money etc... From the actors to the plot, I cannot find any default with it. It is soberly and superbly played by Michel Piccoli (it is probably the only film where I really liked him) and the whole cast is a marvel. To be seen absolutely !!!
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Sadly this film did not age well
frantastika15 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I'm a chess player and somehow I imagine that the film will be about chess after reading the description. Well, the truth is that chess does show a little here and there; the chessboard and the game itself is very little shown and I considering that many people may not know chess is reasonable to keep a balance.. but they sincerely could have done better. The main characters are hard to like, due to little construction and the acting is way over the top with "Pavius"the young one. The personal dramas were interesting but presented in a sort of confusing way that there was not time to understand what was going on. Frankly, if you are interested in chess and films you may see it for curiosity but not for quality or entertainment. Chess is fascinating and Im sure that you could a good movie out of this one, maybe a remake?
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A great game of chess
lionel.willoquet23 May 2001
Geneva welcomes the 23rd world chess championship, which sees the confrontation of the Soviet citizen Michel Piccoli, unconquered for 12 years, with his young fellow countryman, now a refugee in the West, Alexandre Arbatt, winner (conqueror) of the " tournament of the candidates "... The chess is only an excuse for a political tussle, the real game taking place gently in the wings in an East-West confrontation. The whole thing is perhaps a little dated.
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dbdumonteil3 August 2003
Or not?"La diagonale du fou " was extremely well received at the time of issue -it won the prestigious "prix Louis Delluc" and AA- . With hindsight,it's now difficult to understand what the enthusiasm was all about.Heavily symbolic,the movie had high pretensions :the cold war on a chessboard.I must admit that for someone like me who cannot play chess at all,it's pretty tedious.But the biggest bomb is the female parts:what's the point of casting two legendary actresses (Leslie Caron,star of Minelli's musicals " an American in Paris" and "Gigi"and Walters' "Lili",and Bergmanian Liv Ullmann) and giving the first one barely five or six lines ,and the Swedish thespian a fifteen-minute walk -on part?
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Multidimensional Film !
elshikh428 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Finally, a close to perfect work. This film got it all. The conflict, thank God, can be read through more than one dimension. It's how to have rich drama, and be thought-provoking too.

One can read it as a brilliant chapter in the cold war's time; the original Soviet communist vs. the Lithuanian enemy of the proletarian revolution. As if it's the eastern block vs. the western world. Then, it's a battle of minds between the old generation who believed in something and fought for it, and the young one who rebelled against the first, fighting for the opposite. So it is, as well, the wise old vs. the riotous young.

The differences between the 2 main characters are catchy and well-made. One is mystic who loves to unite with nature (great scene, with only music, for him enjoying sailing; as if it's a spiritual fun). And the other is more materialistic, with hot pace and temper (enough to remember his leather jacket and motorcycle).

I loved the pace, it's meditative and exciting in the same time; which is very hard to achieve by the way. Still the scene of seeking help by external factors to affect the players is smartly comic to the max; that Indian guru, who controls minds, is pure comedy. The 2 lead actors played their roles in iconic way if you will. However, nothing is better than the end of it.

Simply, this film wins immortality by not relaying only on the cold war situation back then, yet it dives into deeper layer to make it essentially a conflict between just humans, who wants to assure themselves in the thing that they love. Notice well how it doesn't eventually choose a winner or a loser too, because the game is on and the conflict is forever between the older and the younger. It's how the film - so intelligently - will live for more and more, being suitable to watch anytime or anywhere; it outlived the cold war itself already.

So, it is satisfying whether as politically, philosophically, or - and that's the most important - as a good effective drama in the first place; where you can watch it only as a thrilling movie about a crucial game of chess between the smartest 2 guys on earth. Naturally, this is one of the best films I have ever seen. Or in another word, this is how films must be made.
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Interesting but definitely not for everyone.
MartinHafer22 September 2012
"Dangerous Moves" is a French film that in some ways is a fictionalization involving the chess champ, Bobby Fischer mixed with some Cold War dramatics. The film is about a long-anticipated match between a Russian Grand Champion (Liebskind) and a Russian expatriate Grand Champion (Fromm). Liebskind is older and ill--and he and the agents from his country are trying to hide this from everyone. Fromm is a nut-case (like Fischer)--very, very, very demanding and amazingly neurotic. Neither man likes the other and due to Fromm's weird antics, it's not even certain that the match will take place. And, when it does, both players threaten to derail it repeatedly.

The film is an interesting character study of two seriously disturbed and difficult to like men. I appreciated this, as most films feature more one-dimensional and predictable characters. However, many will blanch at the film's slow pacing and that so much of the film takes place at the match--making it a hard-sell to most viewers--plus there is no hero to root for--just two very determined oddballs. It is very good but also for a very narrow audience. Worth seeing, though, if you are very patient or have a background working in mental health. Otherwise, there might just be some better French films you might want to see first.
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A Smart Rocky?
gavin694216 December 2016
Two masters of chess duel each other not only in their game but also in their different ideologies. The veteran Akiva is a Soviet Jew and ferocious Communist, master of his game but also dealing with a declining health while the young and restless genius Pavius has defected to the West to escape from the Communist tentacles.

I love that this is billed as the "thinking man's Rocky". First, this assumes that "Rocky" is not for thinking men, which is not necessarily true. It may not be high art, but it's still a good movie. But that aside, I find it interesting to compare a film about a boxer with one about chess players.

Anyway, whether we accept that marketing or not, it really is a good film. I'm curious about how accurate the subtitles are (they notoriously changed "eight" to "ten" in an early scene) but even if the film was silent, it is quite visually appealing.
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