My Dinner with Andre

Another hot, humid day, and I spent pretty much all of it running errands. Bleh. I came home and was able to escape into air conditioning and less sun, and I watched My Dinner with Andre, directed by Louis Malle in 1981. I never saw this movie before, although I've always heard of it. It was so odd, but I really loved it. Ebert says it should be unwatchable, which is what I thought all the times I heard about it before. It ended up being such a surprisingly great movie.

The plot is surprisingly hard to talk about for me. On a literal, unimaginative and unobservant level, it's just two men having dinner together. Of course it's not just that, though - Ebert writes that the film is so much more than just two guys talking and eating dinner together. Do I summarize the stories that they told, since they were easy to visualize? Do I mention the interesting concepts and ideas that the talked about? Or all the awesome cinematography? There is such fascinating amount of stuff in this little, simple-sounding movie, and it made it so interesting to watch.

 I really can't summarize it anymore than I did already. The two characters in the film are Wallace Shawn, who is a playwright, and Andre Gregory, who is a director who has been traveling the world. They meet up, after a long time of not talking to each other, and share stories from their lives, and thoughts about the way that we live.

I was so impressed by the amount of...things in this movie. I wasn't expecting so many interesting stories and shots and wow! I felt like I was really there, of course. I really liked hearing all of the different stories - it was so easy to just imagine them, and I'm sure I spent so much time doing this that I occasionally missed cool moments in the film. There were times where I really hated Andre's stories, because sometimes I find those sort of people really abrasive and annoying. But it was funny, then, how irritating and pretentious he sounded. I liked that there was humor mixed in as well. Watching it felt like how you privately smile to yourself or a close friend when you are subjected to someone annoying. It really created a cool sense of intimacy and realism, I thought.

While I found Andre a little over the top, there were also moments where he made sense, although for me, I liked Wally a little better. There is a point in the conversation where Wally starts talking about how difficult it is for people to express their emotions. He says that they don't express them, in then they come out in these little, nasty ways. He gives an example of one time he had to wear a cat costume for a play. The other actors came up to him and said strangely horrible things like "If I just wear even a hat on stage, I faint." People do this, he says, because they are still upset about things that happened to them and they never expressed their emotions, so they like, sabotage others.

It seems stupid, but I could really relate to what he was saying! I had shoulder surgery last year, and it seems like every person I told had something nasty or stupid to say. Like, I would say I was having surgery in a few days, and they'd be like, "Oh, good luck. I had an operation and I was awake during it but I couldn't move and I felt everything and it was awful." Oh...I'll be sure to worry about that now, thanks. "I had that surgery once," someone else might say, "and now I can't use either of my arms." Uh...thank you. Why say these things? It was really disturbing to me, honestly. What compelled everyone to tell me their worst surgery stories? I thought of this right away when Wally started talking about that.

I liked that some of their discussions actually had a good point, like that one, or were an interesting and genuine observation. I was excited once I started to relate to the discussion more - I felt like I was there! It reminded me of how you can have a great conversation even with someone you dislike or were annoyed by just moments ago. I also was amused that there was a segment where Andre and Wally seemed to agree on a lot of things, but then Andre quietly started to disagree. I laughed out loud when Wally brought up how much he loved his electric blanket and Andre says softly, "I wouldn't put on an electric blanket for any reason. First, I'd be worried if I get electrocuted. No, I don't trust technology." I was back to feeling my smirk-y dislike of him, but I liked it. It felt real, and it felt like how conversations often ebb and flow. The writing in this script was really incredible, and I loved being able to experience that.

Ebert asserts that, "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" (Great Movies II, 297). I think this is true, but it was so hard to not just focus on what they are actually saying on a first viewing. I think that to really appreciate the flow of the conversation, I'd probably have to watch the film again, which I would like to do at some point in the near future.

This is a really fascinating film, and I'm pretty excited to watch

Have any thoughts on My Dinner with Andre? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on My Dinner with Andre
Buy it on Amazon

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