Phenomenal movie, horrible transfer
Joshua Wolf | Brooklyn, NY United States | 03/29/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"My Dinner With Andre is a brilliant, difficult movie.A lot of people are turned off by this film because it's mainly one extended scene of two unglamorous people talking about existence. But what a conversation, and what a scene! Andre Gregory's bizarre, surreal story and his catharsis about the nature of modern life that comes from it is powerful stuff, but the real punch comes from Wallace Shawn, our Everyman, and his reaction to it. It's a shame that so many can't watch more than 10 minutes of this movie, because it is ultimately Shawn, at the end, who speaks their thoughts.MDWA demands your attention for two hours, which is no easy task, because there is no real narrative in the traditional sense. It also demands multiple viewings, because it is rich with subtle detail, and there's a lot to take in. Notice, for instance, the continual references to the Holocaust, culminating in Gregory's account of his friend's theory about the city-as-modern-concentration-camp. And as you watch these two actors play, ostensibly, themselves, you wonder how much of the film is true and how much is a carefully constructed narrative. It's a great mystery, one that I prefer unsolved.Kudos also go to the director, the great Louis Malle, whose control is so precise that you almost forget you're watching a movie as opposed to two people just talking. It's a reminder of how the great directors are the ones who can do so much with so little. You'll never look at a blockbuster the same way again.The reason I can't give this film 5 stars is that the video transfer is HORRIBLE. The color is often off, and the sound is mediocre at best. Hopefully someone will save and restore this gem of a film.Do yourself a favor and SEE THIS MOVIE. You'll probably complain about doing it, but you'll feel immensely gratified afterward."
A masterpiece! - The best movie of the past 25 years
M. Burns | Columbus, Ohio | 05/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just finished this movie, and I feel like I need to simply get a few thoughts down before my head hits my pillow. I didn't know what to expect entering My Dinner With Andre - after all, it is a movie about two guys who have dinner in a restaurant and talk the whole time. But from the moment that the goofy-looking, awkward Wallace Shawn lumbers down a New York street and we hear his voice-over, I knew that something more was taking place in this movie. What it was, I had no idea.
There are no character names; there is no 'plot;' Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, both prominent actors/playwrights of New York, meet after not having seen each other for years and they shoot the breeze. I learned that it's not as extemporaneous as I originally had imagined - Shawn and Gregory got together, recorded hours of their conversations, and then compiled a script based on them. The 'restaurant' is actually a defunct hotel, the waiters and barkeepers all actors. But there's a transcendence to it all, as the men sit and chat (mostly the powerful, lively Andre Gregory doing the talking), food being brought out to them.
What heightens the power of the film is the setup that Wallace gives in the voice-over before their dinner: Andre, the man he meets, has been living a peculiar existence traveling all over the world, when he used to never want to leave his family. A friend of Wallace's saw Andre weeks before sobbing uncontrollably on the street because he was violently moved by a line in Bergman's Autumn Sonata. Like Wallace, we don't know what to expect in the very context of the dinner conversation.
Some of the things that Andre and Wallace discuss in this movie are so unimaginably crazy, so hauntingly horrific, that even the mental images that went through my head sent chills all the way through me. At one point, Andre tells of a strange rite with some friends on Halloween in which some of them let him through a strange process of being stripped completely naked, bathed, led through a field, lowered into a grave and buried alive for half an hour. Of course, I tell you this just to tantalize you, because to begin to even summarize what goes on in 110 perfect minutes would be impossible. Andre and Wallace discuss love, marriage, perception and reality, theology, and even the validity of their very statements. That they relate it with such grace and raw, real emotion makes me refuse to believe that this was staged in any way. It feels so natural.
I can't believe that something like this could actually make its way onto film, because it's such an amazing achievement for the art itself - in a way (especially in an early story that Andre tells about the nature of performance), seeing these men talk over dinner on film is the actual embodiment of a movie folding into itself in perpetuity. These men are real figures, play real figures in the film, recreate real conversations, and talk about reality in such a way that a heightened sense of awareness pervades the whole film. I didn't get up once, check the time - a few times I leaned closer to the screen because what was being said struck so close to me, hit home so hard, that I wanted to just be nearer to it. At one point, I gasped as Andre related the idea of New York, of working society being a new kind of concentration camp in which the prisoners make the prison, abide by the rules, and don't even realize it's holding them in. Whether I believe that or not is irrelevant - the fact that it's worked into a conversation like this is amazing.
The movie moves with grace between moments of hauntingly dark realizations, to soaring epiphanies of happiness and then back again. Much of the film may be discussion about the zombie-like nature of human existence, but there is a certain empowering quality to it all. My Dinner With Andre is not just about a conversation; it is about living; it is about life; it is about reality; it is about love; but most of all it is about the fact that we can all be happy with what we have right now, even with the infinite, scary knowledge that we receive over time. We meet a man who personnifies 'normalcy' with every gesture (Wallace), and yet there's a man who has done everything in his power to resist stasis (Andre). I left the movie with a changed perspective on each man, which I'm sure is what happened between them, too. More than a few times, I felt on the verge of tears watching this, and I felt it more than ever when Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie for Piano" began at the film's conclusion. One of the most transcendent works of music was chosen for one of the most transcendently great films I've ever seen. How cool.
I'm sorry. I'm just rambling at 2:15am, but I just thought it was impossible to not attempt to put into words what could be one of the single most important experiences I've ever had with a movie. I've seen a handful of movies that have drastically changed my thinking about a certain theme or notion. My Dinner With Andre might have just changed my life."
DVD Quality is Still Awful
Thomas Almy | Tualatin, OR USA | 05/24/2001
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD title went out of print and then reappeared Feb 2001, so I thought it might have been improved because of complaints. Not so! The quality is awful, and it is not divided into chapters nor is there any indication of time so you can't search or bookmark the CD. The VHS version is superior in every respect. It's a shame that such a great film is ruined by lousy DVD design."
Thought provoking film that will expand your thinking
Thomas Almy | 06/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First saw this movie when it came out. Went to see it with a group of friends. After the movie we went to an all night coffee shop and talked about the film and how it related to our lives until the sun came up. This film made me laugh, contemplate life then cry at the end when Andre talks about how one day his son was just a little boy and before he knew it, he saw his grown adult son standing before him and he wonders, where did that young child go? Where did that time go?This film is not for everyone. Have watched this film with people who wondered when the two characters were going to finish dinner, and when would the action pick up? Other people were left in the dark because they had never read "The Little Prince" and had no idea what Andre was talking about when he referred to the book. However, if you are someone who questions life and looks to find meaning or purpose in your life, you will be pleasantly surprised. At the end of the movie, I always need to talk with friends and loved ones about the issues that are always raised watching this film. For me, this is a film I have watched yearly (usually more) because it allows me to concentrate on what really is and is not important in life. This movie always puts life and all the "things" that happen in my life back, into perspective.Although Andre's adventures seem rather abstract at times, he eventually brings the conversation to a point where Wallace Shaw can understand what he is saying because he starts using examples and situations in every day life. He explains that you don't have to go to Tibet to meditate or be buried alived for the night in Poland to truly experience life and what it is all about. This is, by far, my favorite film and will always be my favorite film. Watching this movie is a gift I give to myself."