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MY DINNER WITH ANDRE is one of the greatest movies of all time because it
works on a seemingly infinite number of levels. Yet at the same time it is
one of the biggest failures in film because it only succeeds in connecting
to the most insightful of its audience. The resulting paradox only serves to
prove the film's lesson to be true. Brilliant!
This is either a movie you will turn off after fifteen minutes, or it is a movie you will watch over and over again to pick up all the things you missed in previous screenings. The former will be bored and lost by the endless, meaningless talk. The latter will find gold in every word, and veins left to be mined time after time.
In simple terms, the question is understood "If life is a stage, are you going to be an actor, a director, or a playwright?" It is the viewer's choice. Wally is a struggling playwright who has fallen back on acting. Andre is a former actor and director who has left the theatre entirely. Wally and Andre meet for dinner, and Andre recounts his experiences since leaving the theatre.
But one of the ironies is that their dinner itself is theatre, and both Andre and Wally have roles to fill. [Notice they wrote the script and use their real names. They are not playing characters. They are necessarily playing themselves.] And summarily the viewer also has a role to fill. If life is a stage, viewing the theatre is in itself theatre. The viewer is now in a place of choosing the role. And will that choice be made mechanically or deliberately? Mechanics is acting. Deliberation is playwrighting.
This is a brilliant, brilliant film. One of the greatest movies of all time. And its resolve is purely subjective to the individual viewer. The goal is to deliberate and come away enlightened (literally). Unfortunately the majority of viewers will act mechanically and turn it off.
First off, I love this film. I'm sure I will see it a dozen or more times
before I die. Definitely a 10/10.
But I comment for a different reason. Sure, you see the philosophy in the conversation. It is very interesting. What I think a lot of viewers are missing, though, is the strong characterizations of Wallace and Andre. They very clearly reveal their characters throughout the movie. I also love the tension that arises between them. Andre subtly criticizes Wally several times in the film (note what Andre says about people who stuff their face out of habit while Wallace is eating; also notice that we hardly ever see Andre himself eat). Wally is perceptive enough to catch them. This movie hit so close to home it was unbelievable. I think I've had that conversation before. The dynamics between Wallace and Andre have existed before between myself and friends with whom I have argued. If you find Andre a little pretentious, by the way, which many people will, don't necessarily believe that that wasn't deliberate. Wally himself finds his friend somewhat pretentious. And I think many people will be fooled into believing that the director sides with Andre just because he speaks the most. Some people will just buy into Andre's ideas and believe Wally is a poor sap. Don't be too sure that Wally has his life in any order. Don't believe he understands all that happens around him. Remember the line in Autumn Sonata that made him weep. Also, notice that Wally is fibbing a bit himself. In his opening monologue, he complains how hard his life is getting. All he used to think about was art, but now the only thing he thinks about is money.
See, this film is filled, just stuffed, with layers. Who would ever think that the most multi-layered film ever is a film about two people who sit down to dinner and talk!
There are movies made of every kind, of many different genres. While
quite a few are entertaining, some films can actually be life changing.
"My Dinner With Andre" is one of those films. I first saw the film in
the early 1990s, around a decade after it was made. Caught in a vortex
of corporate America office work drudgery as a single parent, the movie
inspired me then to really examine my life and actively work to change
I struggled to understand how a theater director (Andre) could ever become disenchanted with his life enough to drop out and search for more meaning. For me, the ability to do anything artistic to earn a living was a dream come true. As I watched the film, it became apparent how even someone in the arts could become disconnected - in fact, even more so than other people, who had resigned themselves to live the way that they were expected to according to standards they didn't agree with. I came away with the conclusion that it is the artists in society who have an obligation to cast truth's light on culture and how it affects humanity. This is a huge responsibility, and it is often frustrating for creative people to have to confront the mundane aspects of life which can create soul crushing circumstances, driving people to behave in the most inhumane of ways.
Seeing the film again recently, it had a whole new meaning for me. Now that I am on the other side of the spiritually deadening life in corporate America - I can see how my goals and decisions to change my life were extremely necessary - in fact, imperative to my existence. Since the film was made, people have spent decades engaging in all manner of robotic and soul deadening activities - many to the detriment of themselves and everyone around them. We have also seen a technological surge that helped to liberate people to a certain degree, while further enslaving others. Regardless of which type of person one happens to be, at the end of the day, most everyone should work toward doing the things that give them joy - without harming others in the process. While this is much easier said than done, it doesn't make the goal any less important to accomplish. In fact, on a very basic level, it is just as necessary as eating, breathing and sleeping. Maybe even more significant, since human apathy, in its own way, can systematically destroy and sully the spirit driven intention of others.
"My Dinner With Andre" is every bit as relevant now as when it first premiered, perhaps even more so. A conversation about the meaning of life and how people choose to live it, along with all of the outside forces that exist to complicate it, will never go out of style. This is a beautiful masterpiece of a film, that can be watched many times, to produce different points of view which provoke interesting, engaging and enlightening discussions by those who experience it. This is very apparent as Shawn's character, who on the surface seems to disagree with a lot of what Andre says. Yet by the end of the film, on his way home, his eyes observe things in his environment as though a new light was been cast upon them.
This is the tale of two different men: Andre, an avant-garde director, and Wally, a theatre actor and writer. They meet at a restaurant and philosophise and discuss a variety of subjects. The majority of the dialogue is spoken by Andre. He is a far more loquacious and complex character than Wally. Wally is a laconic and soft-spoken guy, who enjoys a simple life with his wife. His epitome of bliss is drinking a cold cup of coffee left from the night before, without finding a cockroach in it. Andre is an intense ponderer. He tells Wally the stories of his experiences travelling around the world, from his time spent in far flung places such as Scotland, Poland, India and Tibet. Andre gives the impression he is exaggerating at times. Is he fabricating some of the tales? He could be. Especially the ones where he claims he has seen monsters and weird creatures. The premise of two men conversing for 110 minutes at a dinner table is not going to be the most appealing film, but this film holds your attention and intrigues the viewer. You become involved with Andre's musings somehow, and just as fascinated as Wally is. A great piece of arresting cinema.
This movie is mainly a conversation between 2 people. There isn't much
music, barely any camera work, there actually is barely any acting
because both actors play themselves!... it can barely be called a
movie, but it still is one - and a very entertaining one at that. Both
Actors have a gift for languages and are amazing story tellers. My
native language is not English (you probably guessed it while reading
this review), but even I have been amazed by the beautiful language and
their amazing skill to talk.
From a philosophical point of view, there is nothing new. I heard all the thoughts before. - The great strengths of the movie is the way those ideas are expressed. Even the most simple thought is coated by meaningful and beautiful words. You almost feel enlightened while watching this movie! But after the movie is over, you realize, that you actually learned nothing. It still has been a great experience. And I wished that there'd be more movies like this one.
This film is a miracle -- that anyone would even make a film about
little more than a dinner conversation is incredible enough, but the
play of paradigms between Shawn and Gregory is such a Gurdjieffian tour
de force that it creates a compelling crossroads for any astute viewer.
This is a challenging flick!
Also, be it hereby said that the brilliant and understated performance of Jean Lenauer as The Waiter should have won an Oscar for the best supporting role. Watch again and see if you don't agree! The old gent passed on two years after this film was made, but, man, was he great! Thanks, Jean.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Two aesthetes meet for a two-hour dinner in a fancy restaurant and
talk. Man, does it sound boring. They talk all the time, especially
Andre Gregory, the playwright and director. There is an absolute
minimum of narration by the other diner, Wallace Shawn. The colloquy is
relentless. There are no light moments, no obvious jokes, no badinage.
The camera never strays from the faces of the two actors. There are no
inserted shot of the meals they are served so we don't even know what
they're eating -- and this is directed by Louis Malle, a Frog himself.
The film just drones on, cutting from one face to the other. The
momentary appearance of a waiter brings a breath of air.
It goes on for almost two hours, yet I found that every time I checked the clock, more time had passed than I'd expected. That's ordinarily the sign of an enjoyable experience. I remember working in the pattern department of Lubell's shirt factory and thinking the clock must have stopped completely. In this case I was unable to lose interest.
I'm not sure why it was hard to ignore the conversation. I'm a behavioral scientist so when someone says something like "we all live in our separate fantasies in order to avoid dealing with reality," I have no idea what it means. Mene mene tekel? I mean it. I'm sitting there while Andre is expounding on how having an electric blanket cuts us off from reality. We no longer are in contact with "cold." We lose our connection to the rest of the natural world, and the rest of humanity too, who may be cold and without electric blankets and who may have to heap their old clothes on top of the ordinary blankets they DO have and -- well, you get the picture. And I'm sitting there thinking, culture is a cocoon that tries to buffer the impact of natural events, of course. We don't even see our corpses until they're prettified. That's precisely what culture DOES. And here Andre is, carrying on like some pop psychologist about "transparency" and "fantasy" and "authenticity." But I could not tear myself away.
Wallace Shawn is an unprepossessing, balding little man who seems content with waking up to an unspoiled cup of coffee. Andre, on the other hand, is a different sort of animal. When Wally asks Andre what he's been doing lately, Andre launches into a full half-hour monologue about dancing naked in a Polish forest with forty Jews who play harps and finally baptize him before burying him alive. It's not a particularly erudite conversation -- there are a few reference to St. Exupery and Jackson Pollack -- but it's weird as hell. Andre seems to think like a combination of Andy Warhol, Timothy Leary, and Jack Kerouac, although he has an actor's impressive face and a deep, incisive voice that's at once soothing and authoritative. Think William Daniels. That voice, with its rolling and expressive contours, even makes it possible for us to believe that when Andre hallucinates a monster at a Christmas Eve mass -- half man, half bull, with poppies growing out of its toes -- he's able to interpret it as a helpful sign.
I still can't quite understand the movie. What was all that intense talk meant to be about. And I can't understand my response to it. Why couldn't I just shut it off and go back to reading my comic book? I've given it extra points for being absolutely, deliberately, suicidally non-commercial. The writers, Shawn and Gregory, and the director, Malle, have given the audience nothing to hang on to but the most wispy of surreal notions and the compelling faces of two decidedly odd people. Your brain may be racing a mile a minute but your adrenal glands will go into Standby.
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.
My Dad was sixty, at the time, and not prone to liking many movies. I
have recently re-watched this, and see why a person who is interested
in many aspects of life, would be intrigued by a conversation between
two men; something unusual.
While several reviewers have mentioned, the film is not for everyone. I would concur, but give it a chance. Wallace Shawn is the less traveled, non-pretentious friend, while Andre discusses his travels to India, Poland, Scotland, and the many philosophies he has encountered therein.
The discussions about daily life, its esoteric meanings, and how these two men interpret their lives, is quite interesting. Think of it as a brief exposure to a man's psyche (Andre) after he has lived and searched for meaning in his life. Also to be appreciated is the conversation between two men, something not often addressed in film. 10/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Friendship between two men who can communicate their ideas to each
other is a rare commodity. Women, it seems, are more in touch with
their own feelings and they are more open to express how they feel. In
contrast, men are always more reserved in the way they express to a
friend things that are so deep and so different that it takes two great
individuals to have an honest exchange without being cautious. To bear
one's inner thoughts to a another man is not something frequently done.
As in the case of Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, two friends who haven't seen one another in quite some time, a dinner brings the two men together in ways they probably didn't think possible. In the case of Mr. Shawn, he is seen at the beginning of the film walking the streets of downtown Manhattan thinking about how he doesn't want to meet with Andre Gregory in his present frame of mind. After all, he is a struggling playwright who has not had a success in the theater in some time.
At the arrival at the restaurant, Wallace Shawn seems out of place. In spite of the way he looks, don't be fooled by his appearance. This man grew up in the midst of affluence. He is the son of the legendary editor of The New Yorker magazine, William Shawn. As a child Wallace Shawn was surrounded by literary celebrities through his father.
Andre Gregory, is a great conversationalist. He clearly dominates what he has to say to Mr. Shawn because, after being successful in the New York theater world, he decided to give all that up in order to do what he really wanted, to explore the world to its fullest. His wonderful stories recount his experiences in Poland, Tibet, Scotland, and other parts of the world, where he meets an assortment of people that enrich his life experience.
Conversation between true friends involve listening carefully, something which Mr. Shawn is great at. He never interrupts Mr. Gregory, whose wonderful tales evoke images of discovery and the occult and make perfect sense in the context of the conversation. After all, these men are sophisticated individuals who have been exposed to a lot and would not bat an eye when something that might seem preposterous comes out in the conversation.
It took an excellent director, Louis Malle, to see the possibilities in a film about these two people talking without any action. Instead of being bored, we are riveted to what the two men are talking about and the camera of Mr. Malle follows them attentively without even hinting we are looking at something that was planned in advance. For all practical purposes Mr. Malle makes us 'peeping toms' as we listen to the exchange.
"My Dinner with Andre" is a wonderful movie that will delight viewers with open minds as we eavesdrop on the meeting of two friends talking about things that might be out of our own experiences, but who are fascinating to listen tell their stories for our benefit.
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