Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, apparently playing themselves, share their lives over the course of an evening meal at a restaurant. Gregory, a theater director from New York, is the more ... See full summary »
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Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, apparently playing themselves, share their lives over the course of an evening meal at a restaurant. Gregory, a theater director from New York, is the more talkative of the pair. He relates to Shawn his tales of dropping out, traveling around the world, and experiencing the variety of ways people live, such as a monk who could balance his entire weight on his fingertips. Shawn listens avidly, but questions the value of Gregory's seeming abandonment of the pragmatic aspects of life. Written by
Rick Gregory <email@example.com>
Lloyd Kaufman of Troma, Inc. was production manager and his fledgling company provided support to the making of this film. This was one of his first credits. See more »
The amount of wine in Wallace Shawn's glass varies in a manner not consistent with his drinking from it (or having it refilled). See more »
The life of a playwright is tough. It's not easy as some people seem to think. You work hard writing plays and nobody puts them on. You take up other lines of work to try to make a living. I became an actor and people don't hire you. So, you just spend your days doing the errands of your trade.
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misconceptions in the slug lines used to describe this film:
This film is well described in the comments and reviews . however misinformation is affirmed through lazy use of incorrect descriptives.
Here are my correctives:
1. The premise is not so much about a conversation between familiars. In truth, Wallace and Andre have not seen each other for a significant period and Wallace actively avoids Andre. What we see are two individuals who, in the past, met as idealists and lovers of theatre at the onset of adulthood, encounter the reality of themselves and their life choices at the onset of middle age. They see that they are in fact total strangers to each other. The context is an attempt, in part, to critique the previous decade, the 1970s, where Andre embodies the most excessive experimental characteristics of that decade. Wallace is his opposite, an entropic and resigned realist, very NYC.
2. The dialectic falls along two fault lines. Theatre and Mortality. If there is one thing that should be said about this film, is that you should see it within the context of cinematic space and with the presence of an audience. Malle sets up an interesting technique. In many respects this film is a little homage to Woody Allen. This is where the cinematic familiar of the piece lies. However, Malle makes one crucial exclusion. He pushes the improvisational , the theatrical element to the extreme, but he removes the comic punctuational relief, the spacial permission to laugh. The result is that he induces in the audience a state of exasperation which at it's best invokes involuntary cries and gestures. He literally provokes the audience to acts of primal theatre. At precisely the point he has pushed them to their limit, Andre's conversation draws attention to the kind of gestures they are making, and instantly it is realised the extraordinary way Malle has acknowledged the presence of the audience. It's an electric moment, and it's worth seeing this film in a cinema to witness this exchange.Only within the last 20 minutes does the one real permission to laugh at the spectacle arrive, when Wallace exclaims complete incomprehension. But by the time of it's arrival, it's almost too late, and the first real collective roar of laughter from the audience feels like something earned, needed, perhaps even knowingly wise.
Mortality is so extremely forwarded via the vehicle of Andre's desperate search for meaning, that for the first time in my life, after the experience of a piece of culture, i left with the absolute conviction that there really is nothing beyond death, That death is absolute and final. I've had friends who become just as Andre, perhaps we all will have had in time. But there was something about the cinematic intimacy and the distance of it's voyeuristic gaze that enabled one to really see a man so consumed by his emotions that simply can't be achieved in the encounter with that in real life, largely because their 'fire' is too overwhelming to achieve such a distance easily.
Finally to say, Malle does not judge in the end. He expertly remains aloof, simply shows with such simplicity and via the brilliant melding of devices of the theatrical with the cinematic. It's this that allows this piece to claim a status of masterpiece.
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