The Queen’s Gambit – Netflix Series

The Queen's Gambit.
Watching Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit on my laptop

“Chess isn’t always competitive. Chess can also be beautiful.”

The Queen’s Gambit is a Netflix mini-series created by Scott Frank and Allan Scott and based on the 1983 eponymous novel by Walter Tevis, focusing on the life of a young chess prodigy, from her childhood in an orphanage to her first twenty years.

Beth Armon, the main character, is played by actress Anya Taylor-Joy; Beth finds out about chess thanks to Mr. Shaibel, a janitor in the orphanage where she lives, and they both soon realize her immense talent.

Her life is set in 1960s America (spanning the entire decade) and we get to see all the different sides of her personality. Beth as a child is lonely, introverted and very different from her peers. It is easy to play chess for her, but it is harder to understand how to find her own place in the world.

She seems somehow confused in her relationships with other men, has a loving relationship with her new stepmother (although a bit complicated at first), at some point she develops alcohol and tranquilizer addiction so her path is made of trial and error, rise and decline, while searching for balance and victory.

The story could not exist outside the context where it is set; the events take place against the backdrop of the Cold War and the USA – USSR conflict, enriching the tale with a few political connotations. Beth’s story and that of her dangerous opponent, chess champion Vasily Borgov, brings to mind the 1972 chess game between American player Bobby Fischer and world champion Boris Spasskij.

Image Credits: Netflix

The series title recalls a chess move designed to secure control of the center of the board( “the queen’s gambit”). It is one of the most common chess openings and involves white sacrificing a queen-side pawn.


Swept Away…By An Unusual Destiny In The Blue Sea Of August – Lina Wertmüller

Image Credits: Medusa Film

“This is a desert island and wild.”

“How is it possible? We’re not in the South Pacific, we are right in the Mediterranean!”

Swept Away…by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August (Travolti da un Insolito Destino nell’Azzurro Mare d’Agosto) is a movie destined to become a cult in the history of international moviemaking.

The movie was written and directed by art-house director Lina Wertmüller in 1974 and it represents the social discrepancies of 1970s Italy. The director is not afraid to explore racism, inequalities between Northern and Southern Italy, feminism and politics; this is when the contradictions of each political party emerge. It can be considered a time capsule of Italy in the ’70s, when there was a kind of political schism between the conservative and the leftist wings of government.

The film offers a glimpse into love relationships, human nature and society, and it does so in a tragicomic way. There is a clash of capitalist beliefs and communist convictions and, from a certain time onwards, even a reversal of social roles.

The critical response has been overall positive, with American film critic Roger Ebert writing for the Chicago Sun-Times that the film “resists the director’s most determined attempts to make it a fable about the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and persists in being about a man and a woman. On that level, it’s a great success.” It received an R rating and has a 65% positive rating from top film critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

Swept Away won Best Music at David di Donatello Awards, Best Film and Best Actress at Tehran International Film Festival.

Image Credits: Medusa Film

It stars Italian actors Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato; the latter plays a rich and spoiled woman from Milan’s high society, who is vacationing along with her husband and their friends on a yacht in Sardinia. She frequently despises and humiliates the cabin boys, especially Gennarino, played by Giannini (in a memorable scene, she complains about spaghetti being not enough “al dente”), and constantly puts down the servant class. She doesn’t foresee that she will be stuck with him on a desert island when they get lost at sea on a dinghy with broken engine while on excursion.


Death On The Nile – Agatha Christie

Image Credits: HarperCollins

“How true is the saying that man was forced to invent work in order to escape the strain of having to think.”

This was my first book by Agatha Christie (I had heard about her mystery novels over the years thanks to the Murder on the Orient Express 1974 film adaptation by Sidney Lumet), so I was a bit nervous when I began reading it because I didn’t know her writing style, therefore I didn’t know what to expect.

Death on the Nile takes place in 1937 on a cruise ship along the Nile; the rich and famous used to flock there at the time to see Cairo (which was considered very glamourous in the 1930s) and the Egyptian pyramids.

Linnet Ridgeway, a rich and famous heiress, is traveling to Cairo with new husband Simon Doyle for their honeymoon; Simon used to be her best friend Jacqueline de Bellefort’s fiancé and the two of them had previously asked Linnet for help in finding work (they were having a hard time because of the Depression). Linnet has basically stolen Simon away from Jacqueline so the latter won’t go down without a fight and is stalking them on their Egyptian honeymoon.

Aboard the same Nile cruise there happens to be Hercule Poirot, a famous Belgian detective who is the main character in a series of Agatha Christie mysteries.

The other passengers include a large cast of characters and they all have an intriguing past; Linnet’s trustee Andrew Pennington, her maid Louise Bourget, American socialite Marie Van Schuyler, her cousin Cornelia Robson and her nurse Miss Bowers, Tim Allerton and his mother Mrs. Allerton, communist Mr. Ferguson, romance novelist Mrs. Otterbourne and her daughter Rosalie, solicitor Jim Fanthorp, an Italian archaeologist named Guido Richetti and well-known physician Dr. Bessner.

It all seems to go rather smoothly until one night Linnet Doyle (née Ridgeway) is found murdered in her cruise cabin.