My Dinner With Andre

Year: 1981
Production Co: Saga Productions Inc
Director: Louis Malle
Writer: Wallace Shawn/Andre Gregory
Cast: Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory

More so than one of those films you're either going to love or hate, I feel like this is one of those films you're going to love or hate depending on the mood you're in, and I suspect you might react differently to it every time. At the very least, I figure the people who love it so much were in the right kind of mood for it when they first saw it, the memories of the event coalescing into a positive movie watching experience in their mind.

Unfortunately I wasn't in the right mood. Either that or it's director Louis Malle and a bunch of black turtleneck-wearing cineastes in a mutual circle jerk. I lasted about 45 minutes and switched it off. As you might have heard, the entire movie depicts two old colleagues having dinner and talking about what's going on in their artistic lives.

It starts with Wallace Shawn apparently playing himself, walking around New York telling us in voiceover how he's a mildly successful theatre actor and how his professional circle included a sometime friend, Andre Gregory (also playing himself) who went off the rails, travelled overseas and got involved in all sorts of crazy creative endeavours. Now, Wally tells us, Andre is back in town and has asked him to dinner, a date already making Wally uncomfortable because he doesn't know what they'll have to say to each other.

But he duly goes along and listens with interest as Andre regales him about all the weird, enriching and dark adventures he's had with a theatre troupe in Europe, all while Wallace realises how different their worldviews are (apparently the point of the movie).

From what I've read about the back portion I didn't watch, none of it comes to a head and there's no deeper point that's revealed. The dinner comes to a close, Wally goes back home to his girlfriend Debbie (who he's already mentioned a few times) and the movie ends. I don't feel like I missed anything, but if there are diamonds of performance or insight to be had in it all, they went straight over my head.

I was once hiking at Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles and Shawn and a companion walked past me in the other direction. If I'd seen this film prior to that day I might have waved, told him I admired his work, asked for an autograph and asked him exactly what the fucking point of it all was.

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