Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 207: My Dinner With Andre (1981) - Rank 5/5


This sat on my shelf for a while before I ever got around to it, simply because the premise of the film seemed trying. I mean: "A movie that's nothing but a dinner conversation? How interesting could it be?" However, the moment the discussion begins between Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory begins, I was hooked. It's hard to say why I was drawn into the film so deeply. I can only attribute it to the anecdotal nature of Andre. A seasoned veteran of the theater scene, he clearly has a sense of effective timing and suspense building within his delivery, even if its unintentional. In fact, the very notion that it is intentional bespeaks of a far more complex element one must consider when viewing the film. Namely, it's possibly, though not easy, to infer many of the characteristics of the two individuals without having them spoken or evident in their actions.

What director Louis Malle has created then, is a voyeuristic character study, condensed into a single, uninterrupted discussion between two New york residents. Two two chatter about topics ranging from the mediocre, such as relationships and plays, to in-depth analyses of the nature and perception of reality. The closer you listen to Andre and Wallace's viewpoints, the more you feel as if you understand who they are. Ironically though, there are also contradictions, which may be ploys to deter you from scrutinising the discussion or they may be character flaws. Coming from an anecdotal family, where post-celebration discussions involved tales of a variety of rogues to whom I'm related. So if you happen to be a good storyteller, then I'm easily hooked. Andre is excellent at holding your attention, whether he's breaking down the storyline of "The Little Prince" or recollecting a terrifying Halloween experience that led him to being buried alive.

Malle's intentions are never cut and dry, and so the purpose of the film is ambiguous, left to the judgment of the discerning viewer. My personal take is on a simple, yet subtle level, Malle is asking us to be more conscious of the paths our conversations take. If someone were eavesdropping on a discussion between you and a friend, what impression would that person receive about the two of you? And furthermore, would the knowledge that you were being listened to change in order for you to alter your conversation in a manner that might put you in a more favorable light? You'd then find yourself grappling with reality versus perceived reality and, ironically enough, such is one of the overarching topics present in the film.

Watch the Trailer

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