My Dinner with Andre (1981)

My Dinner with Andre is an interesting little independent film, since it’s two people having a conversation at dinner together and that is it. There isn’t a huge conflict it’s two people sharing ideas at a meal together. The film stars Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory and the story is sort of kind of based on their lives but not really.  My first encounter with My Dinner with Andre was with the show Community (2×19) “Critical Film Studies”, which was an homage to My Dinner with Andre.

This is a lovingly realized idea and as an added bonus it hits one of the major theme of the movie the fakeness of real life.

So in the film Wallace ‘Wally’ Shawn (playwright, actor) has been invited out to dinner with Andre Gregory (director, actor) Andre and Wally are good friends. The first half of the film is Andre talking about what he has been doing since stepping away from directing in 1975. It is a wide variety of things working with Polish actors in a forest with Jerzy Grotowski, going to Findhorn in Scotland, a trip to the Sahara to inspire a play version of St. Exupéry’s The Little Prince, and a performance art group on Long Island where he was buried alive on Halloween. Andre has embraces the spiritual aspects of life. The other half of the film is Wally arguing that what Andre did over the past five year really isn’t living compared to what most people think living is, however Andre counters that what accounts for real life with all the pleasures of life is more like a dream. Then the film is over with Wally and Andre going home.

One of the cool things I learned by watching the film is that it was film in Virginia, it wasn’t until later when I checked Wikipedia that I learn that it was filmed in the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, and I’ve been there. I felt at times the film felt a little bit like A Guide to the Perplexed, with it diving into philosophy, I think that the next time I watch it I’ll have a different opinion of the film. This McSweeney’s piece about an audience participation type viewing ala Rocky Horror is a riot. Perhaps I should watch it like this once.

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