By Bryce J. Renninger | feelingsoblahg.blogspot.com January 5, 2010 at 5:3AM
As part of a Louis Malle retrospective series, the Film Society at Lincoln Center will be screening Malle's 1981 indie classic "My Dinner with Andre." The film's stars, Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, will be on hand for tomorrow's screening of the film. The two will talk about themselves, each other, Malle, and the film. Click here for more information on tomorrow's screening and the rest of the series.
If you weren't sold by the presence of the film's stars, AMC's Jeremiah Kipp sells (repeat viewings of) the film, "I try to catch My Dinner With André at least once, maybe twice a year. It's one of those wonderful films which seems to change every time I see it, but, of course, the movie doesn't change at all. It's the viewer who has changed, getting out of the film what he decides to put in." He continues, "One could easily argue that a film about two men having a meaningful conversation over dinner would make for a fairly dull affair, but this is not your usual movie. The normal rules of cinema do not apply here. Instead, if one takes the time to truly listen to their words and thoughts, one could easily use My Dinner With André to contemplate important questions in our own lives. Sometimes, on repeated viewings, 'My Dinner With André' can be used as a springboard for introspective thought."
Roger Ebert muses about the film, nearly twenty years after its release, "Someone asked me the other day if I could name a movie that was entirely devoid of cliches. I thought for a moment, and then answered, 'My Dinner With Andre.'" He concludes, "What they actually say is not really the point, I think. I made a lot of notes about Andre's theories and Wally's doubts, but this is not a logical process, it is a conversation, in which the real subject is the tone, the mood, the energy. Here are two friends who have each found a way to live successfully. Each is urging the other to wake up and smell the coffee. The difference is that, in Wally's case, it's real coffee."
Vincent Canby, in a 1981 New York Times review of the film on its premiere at the NYFF, says, " It's the achievement of Mr. Malle, the director of 'Atlantic City,' 'Pretty Baby' and a lot of other very fine, conventional movies, that he has successfully turned his two real-life personalities into actors capable of representing themselves. That's not easy. It must be added, however, that not all of the talk is so fascinating that one's interest doesn't flag. It might be better if it were a conversation heard at the next table, one on which one could tune in and out at will. At times 'My Dinner with Andre' suggests a reunion of Christopher Robin (Mr. Gregory) and Winnie-the-Pooh (Mr. Shawn) 30 years after each has left the nursery to pursue separate careers in the theater. Mr. Gregory, older, originally more practical, has sought truth in ways that must strike a lot of us, including Mr. Shawn, as crazily if wonderfully self-indulgent."
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Wesley Morris gives his own stamp of approval, "The lasting beauty of their debate, which flirts with truth as often as it approaches pretension, is that its winner is wholly dependent on the depth of your reservoir of pragmatic faith and your willingness to accept the weird reality that Gregory is the Levi-Strauss of the Upper West Side."
Not in New York or curious what the film would look like were it played by bunnies in a 30 second version? Click here.