My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479 (as part of “André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films”) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
June 18, 2015 by Dennis Amith
“My Dinner with Andre” is unique and intelligent but it’s the type of film that is not meant for the masses, primarily because most people will have a hard time relating to the discussion or it’s too long of a discussion that they may not care for or find hard to follow. If anything, sit and watch and be like the third person as you watch this fascinating discussion between both men. “My Dinner with Andre” is recommended!
Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479 (as part of “André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films”)
YEAR OF FILM: 1981
DURATION: 111 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:66:1 aspect ratio, English Monaural LPCM 1.0, Subtitles: English SDH
COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2015
Directed by Louis Malle
Written by Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn
Produced by George W. George, Beverly Karp
Associate Producer: Dave Franke, Keith W. Rouse
Music by Allen Shawn
Cinematography by Jeri Sopanen
Edited by Suzanne Baron
Production Design by David Mitchell
Art Direction by Stephen McCabe
Set Decoration by Doug Kraner
Costume Design by Jeff Ullman
Wallace Shawn as Wally Shawn
Andre Gregory as Andre Gregory
Jean Lenauer as the Waiter
Roy Butler as the Bartender
French filmmaker Louis Malle will be known for directing masterful works such as “Elevator to the Gallows”, “Lacombe, Lucien”, “Au Revoir Les Enfants”, “The Lovers”, “Zazie dans le metro” to name a few. But there was one film that he directed that would become one of the critical acclaimed films of 1982.
That film is titled “My Dinner with Andre”, a film was originally written by actors Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn who wanted to create a film about two people having a conversation.
And as the two were looking for a director, French filmmaker Louis Malle who had read a copy of the screenplay offered to direct, produce and work on the film. And sure enough the two writers/actors would eventually work with the legendary Malle and shot in two weeks at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia.
The film was ranked as “Best American Film” of 1982 by the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards and both Gregory and Shawn won a prize for “Best Screenplay”. But the biggest supporters that helped the film for popularity were film critics, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. Ebert would name “My Dinner with Andrew” as “best film of the year” and would include it in his “Great Movies” essay series.
While the film was released by the Criterion Collection several years ago, on June 2015, as part of the “André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films” Blu-ray box set release, “My Dinner with Andre” will receive its first HD release on Blu-ray.
“My Dinner with Andre” revolves around a playwright named Wallace Shawn (portrayed by Wallace Shawn) who has not been able to find work, so his girlfriend is currently taking care of the both of them.
He receives an invitation to dinner at Cafe des Artistes from Andre Gregory (portrayed by Andre Gregory) who was an actor, theatre director and heavily involved in the theater until one day, he left it in the mid-70s and Wallace has not seen or heard of him until recently.
As the two discuss the theatre, Wallace wants to get into a discussion of why Andre would leave all that he has worked hard for, while Andre explains the spiritual awakening he received from traveling to different countries as an actor and the change in his life after being buried alive on Halloween night.
But as the discussion delves into Andre discussing with Wallace of how people should live their life a certain way, Wallace tries to counter Andre that not everyone can do what he did. But both have their own different perspectives about life.
How will Shawn’s experience go as he has dinner with Andre?
“My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio). The film features a good amount of grain and because it was shot with a low budget ala 16mm, the grain is expected. Colors look good considering it’s an early ’80s film without the over-use of DNR and there are no scratches or any problematic issues with the film. No discoloration or artifacts at all.
According to the Criterion Collection, “This digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 16 mm A/B negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using DaVinci’s Revival, MTi’s DRS, and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s DVNR was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479” is presented in English LPCM 1.0 monaural. Dialogue is clear with no sign of hiss or crackle.
According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original 16 mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”
“My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479” comes with the following special features:
- Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn – (1:00:35) 2009 interviews with filmmaker Noah Baumbach with writers-actors Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn about their experiences making “My Dinner with Andre”.
- “My Dinner with Louis” – (52:08) An excerpt from a 1982 episode of the BBC series “Arena”, writer-actor Wallace Shawn meets with director Louis Malle in Atlantic City to talk about the filmmaker’s “artistic quest”, from his days at sea with Jacques Cousteau to his adventures making American movies.
“My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479” comes with a 28-page booklet which includes the essay “Long, Strange Trips” by Amy Taubin and “On the Origins of My Dinner with Andre” by Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn.
Back when I was watching Eric Rohmer films heavily and praised his films especially for his film “My Night at Maud’s” for its use of intellectual conversations, a friend recommended to me a film by Louis Malle titled “My Dinner with Andre”.
Louis Malle (“Au Revoir Les Enfants”, “Elevator to the Gallows”, “Atlantic City”, “Lacombe, Lucien”) who wanted to direct this film after reading the script, was interested in taking the screenplay written by writer/actors Andre Gregory (“The Last Temptation of Christ”, “Demolition Man”) and Wallace Shawn (“The Princess Bride”, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “Crossing Jordan”) and making it into a film.
As Rohmer’s “My Night at Maud’s” has a long stretch of conversation throughout the film, “My Dinner with Andre” is a film primarily about the discussion between two friends.
The fact that a film about a discussion between two men was even made and many people would go to the theaters after the film was championed by film critics such as Siskel & Ebert, would no doubt be a unique moment in American cinema.
I found “My Dinner with Andre” to be a fascinating film but one that required multiple viewings because it’s a long discussion which doesn’t allow you to settle down and get ready for a new scene, because the discussions are continuing, flowing in a smooth path but without many scene transformation to a next day, a new location aside from the first and last minutes of the film . It’s literally two men sitting down and having an intellectual conversation, but also a debate of two viewpoints.
And in many ways, it’s a common theme between one who has had worldy experiences and one who has not and is still restricted within a paradigm of banality.
Wallace Shawn is a man who works in a career that he loves, but he doesn’t make much money as his scripts are turned down and he chose to work in the theater and has dedicated his life to it, despite no success or any new cashflow, thus his girlfriend is the breadwinner.
And as Wallace tries to understand why Andre would leave the theater, the answer is not cut and dry, nor simple or farfetched. Andre is a man who has had a significant lifechanging moment and while those who never had experienced what he has, may not understand him, Wallace at least listens and is able to touch upon areas that can lead to debate. While viewers who gets the film, will probably have a big smile as I have, because the discussion is quite intriguing.
As for the Blu-ray release, the 16mm film does showcase a lot of grain which one can expect (as the film was shot with a low budget). But still, considering the film’s age, picture quality is good with no sign of scratches or any discoloration. Lossless audio is crystal clear and for the most part, I see certain detail which looks much better than the Criterion Collection DVD I purchased a few years ago. Watching this film on Blu-ray has much better colors and clarity.
As for special features, you get a fascinating interview with both Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, plus an older interview between Wallace Shawn and filmmaker Louis Malle.
With that being said, “My Dinner with Andre” is unique and intelligent but it’s the type of film that is not meant for the masses, primarily because most people will have a hard time relating to the discussion or it’s too long of a discussion that they may not care for or find hard to follow. If anything, sit and watch and be like the third person as you watch this fascinating discussion between both men.
“My Dinner with Andre” is recommended!
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