My Dinner With Andre (Malle, 1981)

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The art of listening has never been more essential than in Louis Malle, Wallace Shawn, and Andre Gregory’s masterpiece My Dinner With Andre. The structure – two old friends catching up over dinner – is deceptively simple in nature, but the subtext of their words and responses resonates a great deal of complex emotions and nuances. Shawn’s prologue through the grimy streets of NYC gives just enough information to lay the current physical and mental landscape of his life, tapping into the collective angst of a man just trying to survive from day to day. But when Andre shows up, all pre-conceived notions seem to melt away, disappearing into the textured walls and shadows of the restaurant, and the film opens up for the possibility of discourse to emerge. The two men cover a range of philosophical highs and lows, revealing a shared sense of identity as fractured artists even when their ideas are as different as night and day.  My Dinner With Andre creates a dichotomy between the rush of everyday life and the calm, slow ballet of concise communication in a specific temporal space, as if it’s necessary to section off time for human interaction in order to respect your own existence. No matter what you believe, going it alone, keeping your voice hidden from the world defeats the purpose of being human, and the surprising clarity of honestly sharing something special with a friend or a loved one becomes universal, even essential to our own survival.  Life resides in the pauses.

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