Dangerous Moves is an absorbing, if not inspired, suspense drama with a great subject, that of a championship chess showdown between a Soviet title-holder and an exiled dissident challenger.
Recalling the famous Karpov-Korchnoi match of some years earlier, script by first-time director Richard Dembo has the aging Russian grand old man of chess (Michel Piccoli) travel to Geneva for a long-anticipated confrontation with a 30-year-old whippersnapper (Alexandre Arbatt) who left his homeland five years before.
Both have two critical people missing from their respective entourages – Piccoli, who is seriously ailing, is denied permission for his doctor, a Jew with family in Israel, to accompany him out of the country, while Arbatt has been forced to live in the West without his wife (Liv Ullmann), who has been detained in the USSR. Both parties come to be used as pawns at crucial stages in the competition.
An opera director and cofounder of the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, Dembo orchestrates the proceedings with a fair measure of skill and brings in just enough specifics of chess strategy to grab viewer interest in the contest. On the other hand, the roles created for the women in the drama are embarrassingly one-dimensional.
1984: Best Foreign Language Film