Sunday, July 19, 2009

"My Dinner with Andre" (1981) - Movie Review

“My Dinner with Andre” is the conversation between two friends. One of them is a struggling playwright Wally (Wallace Shawn) and the other is a disappeared man coming back from various world wide trips and who used to be a successful in theater, Andre (Andre Gregory). Wally is the typical surviving man in the 1970s New York for his play to stage up and an acting job to live up. He mentions about his girl friend Debby whom we never meet and how they are managing their tough life together. This is the dinner he would not forget.

The film is simply two friends discussing mainly about existentialism and the spell under which we the people live in. The reach out to feel things. Lets face it that if one thing we from childhood learned, that would be to shun the darkness and embrace the comforting brightness, even if it is chillingly monotonous. Yet this confusion is a running question when the debate among friends takes into something else. What happens in the film is the deep peeling of the skin we have but not exactly a solution, because there isn’t.

Louis Malle directed film has two out of the restaurant scenes. One with Wally narrating his current state of his life and walking through the busy evening of the city and the other when he is traveling back in a taxi been infected by this mysterious feeling of seeing things differently, at the least for one night or just the cab ride back. As they place themselves opposite to each other by the waiter (Jean Lenauer), for most of the initial half an hour Andre goes on this loop of his past few years in different parts of the world. Wally absorbs these.

Andre mentions that he felt dead inside and the habituation of the theater made him to go away for unplanned life turns. He seem to have led a group in the forest of Poland where his friend Gretowski, an experimental theater artist arranges it. Before we meet Andre we know that he is going through an emotional crisis as voiced over by Wally. But Andre is a perfectly articulating person and stable in his thoughts. When Wally mentions to his audience in the start that one of their common friends saw Andre crying in a dark alley after seeing Ingmar Bergman’s film, we see the material in hand. We think he is on his mid life crisis which he did go through but after hearing Andre talk, we can see the outburst of him in that alley.

The screenplay written by these performing actors does give the feeling they are playing themselves which they denied in an interview with film critic Roger Ebert. But they are and not playing themselves. It is the extraction of their talk in some of the bars, restaurants and the theater they would have worked together. The fascinating thing about Andre talking about the stale acceptance the current generation and city life has embraced is relatable but Wally jumps in saying that may be that is what people want. They want to be masked under this blanket of comfort and be cozy and end the life. Ignorance is bliss as I always say is a great feeling and I am definitely not condescending. It is an art when it is needed. Completely ignorant is fatal.

This is a film which goes on multiple direction. It appear as babbles of a desperate man and at critical points pinches the flow chart life we have come to lead and the for-loop we have been destined to do. It becomes overwhelming at times but surprised how well both of them were engaged in portraying these ideas without being mistaken for an elevated step towards its audience. They know the audience for this film and talk to them. And we have questions and importantly countering points which are fed by the character of Wally. Hence we become participants and are thrilled to be getting a feel of something out of ordinary through this film.

“My Dinner with Andre” is not a wordplay. It deals with meaningful perception of the living existence through two different minds. One has gone through this journey of several years leaving his family and friends in search of finding something more with his life. The process is inevitable. Every one of the beings go through it. There is not concrete division into this ultimate designer and the sheer nothingness but the wandering in between. But people want definite because then it is a completion, the need for lead on without worrying about it. Many find in the religion but it becomes a being of its own and then there is the another end to that line which brings out Andre. “My Dinner with Andre” is the discussion we would have had with the people and become the best friends. We would have gained friendship in those open forum and learned something. There cannot be a solution and rather no one talks out there for solution but to simply enjoy that cloud of various angles of thinking. Each of the points are complimented even in disagreeing. It stops somewhere and we go back to the path we have been talking. It is a milestone in the ages we spent and are about to spend. “My Dinner with Andre” is one such for its viewers.

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