Friday, September 25, 2020

My Dinner With Andre (1981)

I watched this one last night. It's the third or fourth time I've seen it, and it never fails to hold me completely captivated with the conversations between Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory. The premise, of an entire movie consisting of a conversation between two old friends at a restaurant, has almost become something of a joke when it comes to the popular idea of a tedious art film, but the results are anything but tedious. Director Louis Malle made an excellent choice not to try and enhance the proceedings with any unnecessary camera hijinks, and though every set-up and cut serves a deliberate purpose and keeps things interesting, it really is Shawn and Gregory's brilliant script and performances that drive the film.

I love the dynamic that emerges between these two over the course of their conversations. Initially, we are drawn to Andre's tales of spiritual journeys in the mountains and forests, of his globe-trotting adventures with his theater troupe, of his soul-searching with other intellectuals and artists. His story about being buried alive on Montauk is especially compelling.

Wally, who has been listening intently and with a strong degree of fascination the whole time, begins to admit that he doesn't understand the impulses that lead Andre down these tortuous paths of self-exploration; that at the end of the day, he's happy to stay at home in his comfortable apartment, enjoying a good book or cup of coffee and falling asleep under his electric blanket.

We can't help but see each man's side of the argument. For Andre, the highs are much higher, and the lows much lower, while Wally is content to maintain a stable existence.

No comments: