A movie featuring two men talking during dinner is an odd concept, to say the least. But that’s what My Dinner with André is: sipping, chewing and talking—a lot of talking. Odder still is the fact that it has already become an art-house hit in the United States; in a primarily visual medium, My Dinner with André seems more an anti-movie and the kind to keep audiences away in droves.
But supplying it an indubitable fascination are the two diners, playwright Wallace Shawn (Marie and Bruce, The Hotel Play) and director André Grego-
ry, whose version of Alice In Wonderland ran in New York for five years. Though visually dowdy, My Dinner with André does have a narrative: the two men haven’t seen each other in a few years, and each has a story to tell.
The squat, reticent Wally and the gaunt, loquacious André are a Muttand-Jeff routine and don’t know it. For well over half the film, André tells of
his attempts to find the meaning of art, if not life: singing and dancing with a theatre group in a Polish forest, becoming obsessed with The Little Prince, travelling to the Sahara with a Buddhist, trekking to India, Tibet and Findhorn in Scotland. Like a 1960s flower child, André becomes a searcher, a disciple of whatever is going on; during these accounts, Wally listens and fidgets. The movie finally gathers some tension when Wally blurts out what he feels life is all about—forging a career,
making a buck, being entangled in everyday things—which runs contrary to André’s newfound love of stasis and relaxation. One does things, the other doesn’t; at this juncture the audience may feel involved, stimulated and take sides.
Technically, My Dinner with André is quite a feat. Director Louis Malle (Atlantic City) manages to provide the illusion that this is a real dinner with all the natural pauses and flow of speech. Much of the credit goes to Shawn and Gregory for their script about themselves. The title of My Dinner with André tells all. This may be the perfect movie for anyone unable to find a dinner date. —L. O’T.
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