Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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My Dinner With

Watching My Dinner With Andre is a very good way to tell what kind of movie-goer you are. If you watch it and it strikes you as two guys talking for almost two hours in a fancy restaurant, well then you likely go to movies to skim the surface and reflect back exactly what is given to you, and that's fine. There are people who eat food just to stay alive.

If, however, there's something about the movie that strikes you as unpredictably, inexplicably, even unnervingly fascinating, well, then you're the type who likes to go down the rabbit's hole. You go to movies as a seeker, searching out the little things ferreted away in the corners of each frame of celluloid and, if possible, to appreciate the fine work of master craftsmen. Even if you don't know it.

My Dinner With Andre is exquisite. It is an example of distilled cinema, what can happen when you take a seemingly arbitrary subject (Two guys in a restaurant talking) and run it through careful application of the fundamental aspects of the art of film making. They're all there, composition, montage, writing, acting, set design, lighting, everything. All within that small restaurant set and those hundreds and hundreds of shots of those two men.

It was written over the course of over a year. It was filmed in an abandoned hotel in Virginia and yet it FEELS so much like a Manhattan restaurant that the first time I saw it I wondered whether I shouldn't go there and perhaps have a similar meal, just to bask in the ambiance. The shots are carefully constructed, down to the millimeter, and every natural movement or inflection is in fact highly mannered and measured. Wally in the film is NOT Wallace Shawn he is "Wallace Shawn."

Every one of Malle's frames has meaning and beauty. The reflections in the mirrors are so perfect and so well-placed they make me want to weep with joy. Roger Ebert says the film transports us to its various locals through words, not images, and he is right, insofar as language is essential, but the images of the restaurant allow us to travel to Poland with Andre and to Wally's apartment and they are beautiful in and of themselves. I think I could watch the entire movie on mute and still enjoy it.

My Dinner With Andre is the sort of film that gives me hope for humanity. Not just because of the ideas expressed within it, but because of the way they are allowed to be expressed. Because it is art, and people kept it running for over a year, and people still love it, and it still exists and is worth treasuring. It is more exciting than a thousand Pirates of the Carribean movies, because it is about LIFE, not story. Well-executed wordplay can match up with swordplay any day, and win. And Wallace Shawn is beautiful. And I am happy.
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