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DIRECTOR: Louis Malle RELEASE DATE: October 11, 1981 RATING: PG
CAST: Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory, et al.
// review by Beverley

Check, please?

What would you do if you had a casual friend who started acting strangely, looking very sick, and avoiding everyone? You might think he or she was mentally ill and avoid them, or try to get them help without listening to what was really going on, but when Wally takes the time to sit down to a fancy dinner with his friend Andre and listen to his experiences, Andre opens up an entirely new world to him. The film in which this conversation takes place is the aptly-titled 1981 release, "My Dinner with Andre."

At first, Wally, an unemployed New York playwright, is reluctant is join his friend, a retired actor he used to work with, and his thoughts are very self-centred and negative. He only visits Andre so he can nose into other people's business and judges everyone on any behaviour that might be unusual. Wally rarely thinks of others and seems very immersed in his own problems. He finds Andre has travelled around the world in a desperate and unexplained search for a deeper understanding of his life. The experiment he has been participating in, he claims, "has something to do with living" and focuses strongly on sincerity, authenticity, and finding out what his own character is. As a result, he says many strange things, is oddly emotional, and is uncomfortably honest with others.

Andre tells wild stories of secret festivals in Poland, visits from a mysterious Buddhist monk, and desperate wanderings in the Sahara desert. In his search to find himself, Andre has found many new ideas, some of which help him understand his life much more clearly, and others which disturb him greatly. Wally and Andre compare Andre's experiences to life in the theatre and come to realise how much people fail to appreciate the potential and beauty of their own lives and the dignity of the human beings around them. They talk about some of the happiest and the darkest moments of their lives and come to understand each other and themselves much more deeply and sincerely. By the end of their dinner together, Wally and Andre have forged an intimate connection as human beings and come to see the world in an entirely different light. By reluctantly sharing time together, Wally has gained a new gift that completely transforms the way he sees his life. He cares more about others, feels more inspired about his life, and sees the potential in his work.

Of course I found the plot of this film incredible and Andre's experiences and ideas were amazing, but I think the average viewer will find this film lacking in action. The actual plot of the story revolves almost entirely around this dinner scene which is fairly dull in itself. The camerawork, effects, music and sound are all similarly down to earth and familiar. This movie definitely has a college film feel, with a rich, philosophical plot but a very low budget. I found keeping the film itself simple helped the viewer to think and imagine and feel along with the characters, but I could see where the average movie-goer would give this a pass. If I were to see this in theatres, I think I would be disappointed, but as a film experience in the privacy of my own home and the solitude to think and feel the message of the film, I found it incredibly transformative. Even though I wouldn't say this film is a blockbuster, I still think it is worth a try on a contemplative night in. You might find it to be very inspiring!


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