My Dinner With Andre
This is an astonishing film: two friends just talk, with passion, whimsy, vision, hope, and despair, for almost two hours. But it's not a stunt. At the core is genuine friendship, reminding us of endless, deep talks of our own.
The characters' names are the men's real names; maybe they're playing themselves. Wally crosses town to meet Andre, his thoughts giving us background: His friend, a well-known theater director, dropped out for five years to travel. Now he's back. Wally stayed in New York, having little success with his plays. At the elegant restaurant, we see only a seasoned waiter with the pair, who order, eat, drink, and talk.
Andre has fascinating experiences and ideas. Feeling dissatisfied and restless, he joined an experimental theater group for strange rituals in Poland, then traveled the world and met people seriously and creatively exploring new ways to experience the world. He and they believe in mind over matter; as Andre describes a monk who can stand on his fingers, we share the experience.
We share many of of the men's experiences. Director Malle's simplicity puts us at the feet of a master storyteller; we see what Andre describes. The film's visual images are similar to how a radio play can be more vivid than a conventional film.
Andre and Wally talk about most of the things on our minds at a time, now that there's much less for everyone. Andre's inner journey isn't vague or mystical, but a search for a better life, as he listens to what other people are really saying, and breaks conventions that shackle us, as we try to sense the outer world more fully.
The movie is about living fully, as Andre has, in his five years of dropping out. Wally is more similar to most of us; he listens, nods eagerly, is willing to learn, but pragmatism holds him back. He'd like to accept Gregory's vision, but in the real world we have to live in, we can't all dance with Druids in the forests of Poland. What would happen to the market for fortune cookies?
The film ends beautifully and movingly. Wally grabs a cab after Gregory's wild conversational flight, and is reminded of childhood as he heads home. In that store, his father bought him shoes; in that one, he bought ice cream with a girl friend. His simple memories dramatize the fragility and preciousness of life. He has learned his friend's lesson.
Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn
Findhorn, Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn, Louis Malle
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