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Grandmasters face off in `Dangerous Moves'

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DANGEROUS Moves,'' a French production starring Michel Piccoli, has arrived in the United States a few months after winning the Oscar for best foreign-language movie of 1984. The subject is chess, and the main characters are grandmasters battling in Geneva for the world championship. Both are Russian, and both have habits or histories that recall real-life chess players of recent years. But that's where their similarities end. The defending champ is a Soviet citizen. The eager challenger is a defector, and a bitter one. Adding more complication, the defector's wife is still in Russia, and he fears for her safety. Against this turbulent background, the two men face off over a chessboard and try to psych each other out.

Chess is a good subject for a movie, if you don't mind all the closeups of furrowed brows and nervous fingers hovering over pawns and rooks. The competition scenes in this film may not impress fans of the game, since they generally scoot from the first move to the last, blithely leaving out everything in between. And some of the plot twists are drawn out much too long. But if you enjoy a head-on clash of personalities, ``Dangerous Moves'' has plenty of built-in suspense, skillfully developed by director Richard Dembo.

It also sports a good cast headed by Piccoli and featuring Alexandre Arbatt -- an actual Soviet defector -- as the challenger. Leslie Caron and Liv Ullmann are among the colorful supporting players, and the great Raoul Coutard was the cinematographer. Shooting Party'

``The Shooting Party'' falls into a familiar genre: bittersweet drama about the decline of the British aristocracy. It has few surprises to offer, but the production is strong and the performances are beguiling.

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