My Dinner with Andre is one of those films that was a hot button film in its time. “Oh my god, there’s a movie about two people having a conversation!?!” It was something to be curious about, something to mock. But the film ash soldiered on, more than just a concept, as a minor classic of the 1980’s. It also teaches about what direction is.
Wallace Shawn stars as Wallace, a playwright struggling to make ends meet, married, and modestly successful. He’s asked out to dinner by Andre (Andre Gregory), who has just returned to New York after going around the world. More after the jump:
The two spend the even having a long conversation about what Andre’s been up to. He’s gone around the world, having all sorts of crazy adventures. He hangs out in a Czech forest acting with people who don’t speak English, hanging out with a Tibetan monk, putting his hand in a fire, all sorts of crazy and exciting adventures.
What My Dinner with Andre is about is about trying to find the meaning of life, and the meaning in life. Andre has gone about it, and running away from shallowness, having experiences of great merit, while Wally has gone about the normal dregs of existence. As Shawn points out in the supplements, this is about two bourgeois theater people arguing over the purpose of life. And for that the film is ageless. Malle shoots it like he should. Gregory is absorbing with his conversations, and the he knows exactly how to make this a film. For all that movies are now very television in their approach, Malle never is, he knows how to make his cuts, he knows how to move his camera. This is a great film for what it is, engaging and absorbing, just as it was when released.
The Criterion Collection presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and in 1.0 mono. There are no extras on the first disc, but on disc two there’s the documentary “Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn” where Noah Baumbach talks to the two leads (separately) about the making of the movie, and it’s evolution into its current state, and their working relationships with director Louis Malle (61 min.) Equally revealing is an retrospective/interview called “My Dinner With Louis” (52 min.) where – for the BBC show Arena, Shawn interviews Malle about his career, covering his work with Jacques Cousteau through his entire body of work up to that point. Since Malle is no longer with us, this is a great document.