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DVD Review HTF DVD REVIEW: My Dinner with André

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Matt Hough, Jun 21, 2009.

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  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Well-Known Member
    Reviewer

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    My Dinner with André
    Directed by Louis Malle

    Studio: Criterion
    Year: 1981
    Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 anamorphic
    Running Time: 111 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: Dolby Digital 1.0 English
    Subtitles: SDH
    MSRP: $ 39.95

    Release Date: June 23, 2009
    Review Date: June 21, 2009


    The Film

    4/5

    In this day and age of twittering, text messaging, and blogging, a long, intense person-to-person conversation during an extended dinner in a fashionable restaurant would seem almost like something from another world. And yet, Louis Malle’s My Dinner with André is precisely such a film. It doesn’t propose to solve the world’s problems or keep the viewer on the edge of his seat or doubled up with laughter. It’s merely two intelligent men swapping stories about their lives and their views on everything from the philosophical to the mundane with the simplest of cinematic set-ups. It’s simple all right, but just try to look away once the talking gets started.

    Once close but now somewhat estranged as their lives have taken them in different directions, sometime playwright and actor Wally (Wallace Shawn) and acclaimed theater director André (André Gregory) agree to meet in an upscale Upper West Side restaurant and catch up on their experiences of the past few years over dinner. They tell their stories; they debate and then agree and generally have an enjoyable evening getting to know one another all over again.

    Despite director Louis Malle’s documentary approach to the material, My Dinner with André is not a documentary. True, the two characters in the script are based on the personalities and experiences of the two men, but their words are a script and both are playing characters based only superficially on their own real selves. And Malle is content to film this fascinating conversation in simple medium shots and close-ups, never opting for any fancy editing or swooping cameras to take the attention away from the personalities of the speakers or the meanings of the words they’re imparting. André dominates the evening (and does very little eating of the gourmet meal spread before them), and it isn’t even until forty-five minutes into the movie that we even hear much of what Wally has to say about the stories his dinner partner has been discussing. Topics range from André’s experiences “finding himself” in the forests of Poland, on trips to India and the Sahara Desert, or recounting a harrowing experience of being partially buried alive during a Halloween night. Wally, on the other hand, makes a passionate plea for his electric blanket and other creature comforts, the very existence that André took his worldwide pilgrimage to examine and reconsider.

    Throughout the evening, the two men thrust and parry with each other’s ideas about living a life with purpose as opposed to merely playing at living in society’s roles in robotic fashion. During the almost two hour running time you’ll find their ideas alternately interesting, funny, provocative, thoughtful, pretentious, and even infuriating. But you’ll take away a warm feeling of connection with these two intelligent men, each stumbling toward some kind of understanding of his place in the microcosm of civilization, and any movie that can inspire that kind of sober thought deserves some serious attention.


    Video Quality

    4/5

    The film has been framed at 1.66:1 and is delivered in an anamorphic transfer. Filmed originally in 16mm, the image has that moderate-to-heavy grained look that comes from that kind of source material, so it looks very much like film. The image is surprisingly clean with no scratches or notable age-related artifacts, clearly the best I’ve ever seen the movie look on home video. Flesh tones look generally natural though color is sometimes just a little plugged up no doubt due to the original photography. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.

    Audio Quality

    3.5/5

    The Dolby Digital 1.0 audio track is exactly what one would expect from a low fidelity source. There’s a slight amount of hiss in the quietest moments, but as the movie is almost all talk, it’s not generally noticeable.


    Special Features

    3/5

    The film is solely contained on one disc of its own. All of the bonus features are contained on the second disc in the set.

    Filmmaker Noah Baumbach interviews both of the film’s subjects recently giving each man about a half hour to reminisce about the writing of the screenplay and the making of the film (surprisingly not even in a New York City restaurant). This anamorphic widescreen feature runs 60 minutes.

    In 1982, the BBC television series Arena featured co-star Wallace Shawn interviewing renowned director Louis Malle in Atlantic City in this 52-minute program. Malle talks about his film career, and the show features lengthy excerpts from many of the director’s most notable films including The Lovers; Murmur of the Heart; Lacombe, Lucien; Pretty Baby; Atlantic City; and My Dinner with André . It’s presented in 4:3.

    The enclosed 27-page booklet doesn’t contain any film stills (rare for a Criterion booklet), but does contain a critical appreciation of the movie by film writer Amy Taubin and essays by Wallace Shawn and André Gregory which served as prefaces to the published screenplay edition of My Dinner with André.


    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average)

    Scintillating conversation isn’t much found in movies any more which makes My Dinner with André something very special indeed. What a pleasure to see it again in a worthy Criterion edition with some excellent extras and a first-rate video and audio transfer. Recommended!



    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
     
  2. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    This is a film I've never seen but always been intrigued by. Matt's review intrigues me even further!

    I hope to see this film sometime in my near future...but probably only if I stumble upon this film in a really good deal somewhere.
     
  3. Dave S.G.

    Dave S.G. Well-Known Member

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    It's an acquired taste, but I find the film is very rewarding. Thanks for the review.

    Mike, I gave my old copy as a gift when this was announced, but Handbraked it onto my iPod. It makes a suprisingly good listen! I'm hoping to get a fair deal on the CC through DD.com if they have their sale. I highly recommend this. And if you enjoy it, try out VANYA ON 42nd STREET starring Shawn and directed by Malle (with a brief appearance by Andre).

    Anyhoo. Follow this link at your own peril (kind'a spoilery, but fun): My Dinner with Andre in 30 seconds with bunnies.

    O/T: Thanks, Mike, for your weekly roundups.
     
  4. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Thank you, Dave!

    I have been an admirer of Shawn's work ever since his appearances in the Toy Story movies... [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Well-Known Member

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    My dinner with Allosaurus? [​IMG]

    I really liked this film when I saw it during original release. It reminded me too much of my dinner dates, which looking back is probably why I often didn't get a second date.....

    For those who haven't seen it....it sounds like a pretentious "art" film and the people involved go out of their way to try to make it a pretentious "art" film - and yet the end product is enjoyable. Don't expect another film that's "good for you" like "The Bicycle Thief" or "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner".
     
  6. ambientcafe

    ambientcafe Member

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    Looking forward to picking this up, altho it would've been nice to see this avail on Blu....but then, given the film's low budget origins, I doubt if this would look appreciably better on hidef....plus there would be of risk of having some DNR'ing applied. I've only seen bits n' pieces of this art house gem during the rare tv airing, in its cropped form. Even then, I was mesmerized by the pseudo-intellectual banter... [​IMG] ...sigh, if only I could be so witty and urbane...
     
  7. AL KUENSTER

    AL KUENSTER Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the review Matt, I have never seen this either. Will put this in my rental queue.
     
  8. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Well-Known Member

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    Two men having dinner at an expensive reteraunt doesn't sound like much of a movie. Or at least that's what I thought until I watched it. Astonishing..one of my favorite films of all time.

    I'm very happy with the news of this release.
     

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