Ivory Tower is an existential sports comedy, a story of two brothers and their unhealthy rivalry over both the chessboard and a woman. Hershell is a chess purist, the prodigal son, an artist. Thadeus grew to be a disciplained,  fierce and ruthless competitor, commercially exploiting his chess notoriety.

At  the death of their father, Hershell  spent four nomadic years travelling Europe in quixotic pursuit of his “Jazz Chess” theory: chess for chess’ sake, reduced to pure movement without the element of competition – and best played alone. There is no winner, no loser, only beautiful positions.

The film starts at his return home to Toronto, where he finds that his brother Thadeus has become the Canadian Chess Champion. Successful but arrogant, Thadeus supports their sick  mother, has a rising media  profile  and  is  engaged  to  marry  Marsha, Hershell’s former sweetheart for whom he still longs.

Hershell finds that Jazz Chess doesn’t  attract the acclaim or investors he was  hoping for; even kids playing chess in the park don’t seem to understand “chess   without  checkmate”.   Discouraged  by  his prospects, and wanting Marsha back, Hershell finds himself drawn toward the competitive addiction from which he had run. He decides to challenge Thadeus for the upcoming Canadian Chess Championship.

The gauntlet is thrown down and the two brothers undergo rigorous training, each according to their vision if the game. During the final match, Thadeus takes the lead but is flustered by Hershell’s Zen- like demeanor. Thadeus blunders out of frustration and sets himself up for certain defeat at the hands of his brother in just one deadly move.

Whose trophy will Marsha be?
Will  Hershell use his Jazz Chess  principles and prove that art for art’s sake can triumph?… “it’s not about winning but about the beauty of each move” or will Thadeus’ killer instinct prevail?… “chess is war”.


Ivory Tower is a tour de force, a series set pieces performed  with  simple   gestures  in  modulating forms.  It’s a Rocky-inspired sports parody;  a Sirkean melodrama; a nouvelle  Nouvelle-vague Free Jazz riff; a music video; a YouTube bricolage; a silent era pastiche; a commercial.

In the end, Ivory Tower’s modal composition is the closest we’ll get to  an explanation of Hershell’s esoteric  vision for “Jazz Chess”. This is why (forgive the cliché) I like to think of Ivory Tower as several movies in one. So much so that I gave it some additional titles.

Hey Hershell
The brilliant nomad pitted against forms of progress which seem inevitable to  those whose lives are shaped by them. A feel-good coming-of-age story.

Mutual Zugzwang: The Brothers Graves
Hershell    and   Thaddeus    Graves    are    polar opposites-and thus they’re the same. Hershell the self-deluding idealist and Thaddeus  the  ruthless competitor. They’ve switched sides in the middle of the game once before-will they do it again?

White Queen Is Drowning
Marsha’s not so much caught between two bro- thers as between the future Mrs. Marsha Graves and Marsha Thirteen, performer of the ingenious Violinstallation.

And  of  course,  Ivory  Tower: An  electro-piano, silent opera about chess.

And the other Ivory Tower, the album, a sweeping cinematic musical universe by Chilly Gonzales and Boys Noize, weaving its way through the pastiche of forms in which the characters are posited.

The  work  of  Céline  Sciamma  gave  this  film  a backbone which allowed this improvised multiplicity of forms to  thrive. The will of Chilly Gonzales to bring this cast of musicians-personas and this crew together, on a gruelling two-and-a-half week shoot and a  shoestring budget, proves what  Hershell’s blind passion mixed with Thaddeus’ ambition can produce: a towering achievement.

Chilly Gonzales?

Depending on who you ask, the question “who is Gonzales?” will elicit various answers. Other than “je ne sais pas”,  there is “prankster rapper from the   Berlin underground”, “workaholic   Grammy- nominated arranger/producer”, “melancholic piano virtuoso”, “Guinness World Record  holder”  and now… actor, writer and producer of the feature film Ivory Tower.

It’s been a short ride, beginning with electro-hipster classic album Gonzales Über Alles in 2000. Since then, every project brings a new style, image and media strategy. What never changes is Gonzales’ musical genius and showmanship.

Gonzales  left Canada for Berlin in  1998. Those hipster years saw Gonzo  being asked to remix Daft Punk and Björk, though he opted to “remake” them instead. He pronounced himself  President of the Berlin Underground in  a legendary Press Conference, and  people thought he was joking. He was invited to David Bowie’s Meltdown Festival in London. But it wasn’t enough. So on to Paris, where he lazily collaborated with his former touring sidekick Feist on what would be her first album “Let It Die” which eventually sold half a million copies.

In 2004, Solo Piano (Universal Jazz)  became Gonzales’ best selling album. It introduced Gonzo to an audience of real human beings who actually buy  music sometimes. The piano pieces  were used in documentaries, in films by François Ozon, Patrice Leconte, Pierre Jolivet.

Gonzales  had finally been embraced by  hipsters and humans alike. What could  this dysfunctional megalomaniac do after the transition from outside to  insider?  He  started  2008  by  releasing  “Soft Power” – the misunderstood masterpiece. Gonzo then accepted several of the more  interesting offers that came his way in the wake of this new found fame. Offers to incarnate Serge Gainsbourg, to play  his music for the soundtrack – and  his hands for the screen – in the much anticipated first feature film of renowned comic book artist Johann Sfar, offers to co-write a book of music inspired by recipes inspired by music, with Pierre  Gagnière, the 3 star chef and owner of London’s Sketch and Paris’ Le restaurant de Pierre Gagnaire. And still found time to write and produce  tracks  for new albums by Mocky, Peaches, Jamie Lidell, Tiga and the album that garnered him a producer Grammy nomination, Feist’s million selling The Reminder.

But   to  fully  satisfy  the  insatiable   ambition  of Gonzales, only one thing was left to do and he did it: May 16–18, 2009 Gonzales broke the Guinness World Record for the longest solo  concert… by playing  TWENTY-SEVEN  hours  of  piano,  over

200 different songs, in a marathon concert at film director Claude Lelouch’s Ciné 13 Theatre in Paris. A record 85  000 people from all over the world tuned in to the live webcast, that became the days n° 2 “twitter trend”.



Available digitally, on CD and Vinyl
Special bundles & exclusive track

Re-Introduction Etudes

Book + CD + Poster (22€)
Text in English, French and German



Be the first to get the news

Subscribe to the Youtube channel

Next Shows