Have you ever sat down for a meal with a friend and just talked for hours? The 1981 film, “My Dinner With André,” is quite simply that.
In the film, André Gregory and Wallace Shawn — their real names both on and off screen — meet for dinner in an elegant Manhattan restaurant for the first time in years.
Both are in the theater business. Wally is a struggling actor and playwright in New York, who received his first job from André, who is a former director that unexpectedly disappeared for five years to travel the world.
At first, Wally is quite hesitant to meet with his old friend because rumor has it that André has lost his mind. Because of this, Wally had avoided their meeting for years.
During the meal, Wally sits in near silence while André does about 90 percent of the talking. And boy does he have things to say!
At the beginning of André’s five-year leave, he reveals, he attended an experimental acting workshop in Poland, going on to travel the world. He went to the Sahara, Tibet and India, among other places. He shares stories he acquired from each place, and describes compelling visuals and scenarios.
Rare philosophical thoughts and questions are discussed openly between the two. Literature like Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s book, “The Little Prince,” is continuously brought into the conversation. Issues of self-awareness, truth, relationships, death, reality and humanity are all brought to the forefront.
Toward the second half of the film, the conversations become so engrossing that every sentence seems to have significant meaning that must be noted and remembered.
One of the many topics mentioned is technology. André argues that technology detracts from reality, and that people are walking around in a “dream world” that is separate from the true human experience.
Wally mentions his electric blanket that, despite André’s beliefs on technology, he wouldn’t give up for the world. He says it provides him a bit a comfort that is rare in this time and age.
To this, André warns that “comfort can be dangerous [and] lull you into a dangerous tranquility.”
“My Dinner with André” is the most straightforward of films. Just two men having dinner and conversation. The only other character is the waiter and the rarely seen bartender. There are no action scenes, no flashbacks, no violence. Yet at the same time, through André’s enthusiastic storytelling abilities, it is as though the viewers were never at the dinner table, but rather traveling with him on his many excursions.
For those who watch movies for entertainment values, I do not recommend this film. It is two hours of watching people talk.
But for those who are able to sit back, enjoy the discussion and allow themselves to be taken into another world, to you I say, Bon Voyage.
Staff writer Marjorie Hamburger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.