Movies: Kevin Kline plays chess; PBS explores terrorism

Play chess with Kevin Kline and the talented French actress Sandrine Bonnaire! You can do that by watching a delightfully surprising love story in a gorgeous French setting—with a long-shot competitive challenge to stir suspense. TODAY, we have a review of the new-to-DVD Queen to Play.
BUT FIRST, a preview of two provocative PBS POV offerings, which you can enjoy for free.


Check the PBS POV website for more information about these movies, including local showtimes.

IMAGE FROM THE OATH COMING TO PBS POVTHE OATH. TUESDAY AUGUST 16: ReadTheSpirit published a full review of this disturbing documentary, The Oath, in 2010.
The feature-length documentary explores the deeply emotional ties that form through terrorists’ family relationships. In our 2010 review, we wrote: “This is a world of shadows and boasts and dangerous relationships. The Oath is not a History Channel-style … exploration of terrorist history. It’s an intimate portrait of people and families who are deeply enmeshed in these deadly relationships.”

MARK YOUR CALENDAR FOR POV SHORT CUTS AUGUST 23: Set your recording devices now for an entire evening of short documentaries, ranging from the competitive sport of bird watching to some family stories captured in the StoryCorps project.


Here’s what you expect in Queen to Play:

It’s another “chess movie.” And, we’ve had a century of chess movies! The game’s fan base may be dwindling in this new millennium, but there has never been a shortage of movies built around the chessboard!
It’s another “Rocky.” Yes, there is an obvious competitive challenge that drives this drama, but we won’t spoil the film by revealing the outcome.
It’s another “chick flick.” Sandrine Bonnaire clearly is the star of this film as a French woman suddenly blossoming in middle age.

So what will “delight” and “surprise” you—as we promised in the introduction today?

For nearly 100 years, the French have made the world’s best chess movies. In 1927, renowned French director Raymond Bernard (who later made one of the first movie versions of Les Misérables) directed The Chess Player, which also is available from Amazon and is well worth viewing all these years later. Silent film historian Kevin Brownlow regarded this as such a milestone in world cinema that Brownlow personally spearheaded the revival of Bernard’s epic. The Chess Player is famous for its many twists and turns.

The same is true of Queen to Play, starting with the main character played by Sandrine Bonnaire. A typical American take on such stories involves a diamond in the rough who is unveiled as a fully formed world champion. Searching for Bobby Fischer doesn’t end until the little boy is revealed as a world-class chess prodigy! In Queen to Play, the main character’s skills build through fits and starts, and the point of the movie does not rest on what trophies she may—or may not—win in the end.

This is a delightfully complex story of romance and the reawakening of wonderment in life, overall! We won’t reveal spoilers. But threads are woven through this plot that are likely to startle you. For example, one of the mature accomplishments of a chess player is the ability to envision a game without a physical chess board—so vividly that players can call out moves to each other through letter-and-number symbols. Sound boring? There’s a uniquely romantic scene in Queen to Play involving that mental ability.

Click on any of the Queen to Play links or the DVD cover to jump to Amazon and buy a copy.

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Originally published at, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.

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