Dangerous Moves Review
By Christopher Null
The title may sound like soft-core porn, but it's actually a Best Foreign Film Oscar winner that you've never heard of.
Never before seen in the US, this Swiss production concerns a championship chess match between Soviet master Liebskind (Michel Piccoli) and his former student, a defector named Fromm (Alexandre Arbatt). The underlying political intrigue -- which we expect -- is quite understated as the film focuses on the mind games between the two players. Sure, there's a political agenda, but the insight into how these players try to outfox each other between matches is priceless. They plan strategies, only to watch them come undone during the actual game. When we learn that Liebskind is dying, the game becomes a metaphor for not just east vs. west, but life vs. life.
Piccoli and Arbatt, actors whom I've never seen before, are outstandingly well-cast. I'm equally unfamiliar with the small body of work of Richard Dembo, but if a guy can make a chess game exciting, he earns a gold star in my book. Veteran producer Arthur Cohn also has a hand in film, and on the new DVD release of the film he offers by way of interview some of his insights into the filmmaking process. A handy guide to chess notation will help your enjoyment of the film if you aren't a player.
Aka Le Diagonale du fou.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 24th May 1985
Production compaines: Arthur Cohn Productions
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 1
Cast & Crew
Starring: Michel Piccoli as Akiva Liebskind, Alexandre Arbatt as Pavius Fromm, Liv Ullmann as Marina Fromm, Leslie Caron as Henia Liebskind, Wojciech Pszoniak as Le grand maître Felton - l'équipe de Fromm, Jean-Hugues Anglade as Miller, l'équipe de Fromm, Daniel Olbrychski as Tac-Tac, l'équipe de Liebskind, Hubert Saint-Macary as Foldes, Michel Aumont as Stepan Ivanovitch Kerossian - l'équipe de Liebskind, Pierre Michaël as Yachvili, Serge Avedikian as Fadenko, Pierre Vial as Anton Heller, Bernhard Wicki as Pühl, Jacques Boudet as Stuffli, Benoît Régent as Barabal, Sylvie Granotier as Dombert, Albert Simono as Dalcroze, Marcel Tassimot as Protazanov, Jean-Paul Eydoux as Carsen, Jean-Philippe Guerand as A Guy in the Audience, Willy Nicoidsky as Polotin, Mathieu Schiffman as Un ournaliste, Emmanuel Cohn as Kid (uncredited), Nurith Cohn as Spectator (uncredited)