Dangerous Moves (1984): Swiss Richard Dembo Oscar-Winner, Starring Michel Piccoli and Liv Ullmann

Set in Geneva, Dangerous Moves, Richard Dembo’s Oscar-winning tale, centers on Akiva Liebskind, a Soviet chess champion (played by Frenchman Michel Piccoli) who faces the country’s former champion, Alexandre Arbatt (Pavius Fromm) a rebellious genius who had defected.
The thriller, which is set in a neutral country like Switzerland, draws intriguing parallels between politics during the tense chessboard and those prevailing behind the scenes.
The exile takes advantage of the known fact that Akiva suffers from a weak hear, this risking the end of his career. He arrives late for his first move, and his tardiness and contempt for any rules, force Akiva to file a formal complaint with the jury.
In the process, both men show various weakness, Akiva’s are physical, whereas Alexandre’s are more mental. It soon becomes clear that both men may be pawns, just playing roles in something that’s far larger than both of them, the Soviet Union Versus the western world.
Production values of this well-directed political suspenser (Dembo’s feature debut) are excellent, especially imagery by French ace lenser Raould Coutard, sharp montages by editor Agnes Guillemot, and great score from musician Gabriel Yared.
Oscar Nominations: 1
Foreign-Language Film (Swiss entry)
Oscar Awards: 1
Foreign-Language Film
Oscar Context:
The visibility of this foreign film, about Soviet chess champions, was elevated by the presence of international stars, such as Liv Ullmann and Leslie Caron, who were known names (and Oscar nominees) in the U.S.
The other nominees in this category were: “Camila” from Argentina, “Beyond the Walls” from Israel, “Double Feature,” from Spain, and “War-Time Romance” from the U.S.S.R.
Arthur Cohn Production
Running time: 95 Minutes