My Dinner with Andre [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1981]

My Dinner With Andre may have been the most audacious film Louis Malle made over the course of a career full of daring projects -- the notion of a full-length feature that's just two men talking over dinner sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, but Malle, with the help of actors and screenwriters Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, managed to make this recorded conversation compelling, entertaining and genuinely cinematic, allowing the power of the words to carry the picture while the visuals were both subtle and keenly intelligent. While Fox Lorber released My Dinner With Andre on DVD in 1998, the Criterion Collection's 2009 edition of the film is markedly superior and is easily the movie's best presentation on home video to date. My Dinner With Andre has been given a widescreen transfer to disc, letterboxed at the 1.66:1 aspect ratio on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic playback on 16:9 monitors. My Dinner With Andre was shot with 16mm film stock on a quick production schedule, and even under optimal circumstances this isn't going to be one of the best-looking discs Criterion has ever released, but this edition reduces the film grain as much as possible, presents an accurate and attractive color balance, and sources the material from a clean print with no blemishes -- it's the most attractive presentation the film has had on home video to date, and looks just as good as it did in theaters on its initial release. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and the audio cleanup is impressive, making this version a major sonic improvement over the Fox Lorber release. The dialogue is in English, with optional English subtitles but no multiple language options. Given the film's simplicity, it's fitting that the bonus materials included with this release are very straightforward. The complete film appears on disc one, and disc two includes new interviews with Gregory and Shawn (both conducted by Noah Baumbach) as they talk about the genesis of the project and working with Louis Malle. Also on disc two is My Dinner With Louis, a 1981 profile of Malle (produced for the BBC cultural affairs series Arena) in which he's interviewed at length by Shawn while clips from his films illustrate Shawn's analysis of Malle's life and work. Finally, the accompanying booklet includes a new and informative essay by Amy Taubin as well as short introductions Gregory and Shawn wrote for the published version of the screenplay. My Dinner With Andre remains a singular cinematic achievement, and Criterion have at last treated it like the unique triumph it is; if you've never seen this film before, Criterion's top-notch DVD edition should give you a perfect excuse to absorb its eclectic wisdom.
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Overview

Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • New video interviews with actors André Gregory and Wallace Shawn by filmmaker and friend Noah Baumbach
  • "My Dinner With Louis" an episode from the BBC program Arena, in which Shawn interviews director Louis Malle
  • A booklet featuring an essay written by critic Amy Taubin and the preface written by Gregory and Shawn for the published screenplay

Synopsis

My Dinner With Andre
A extended conversation between two old friends over dinner proves an unexpectedly fascinating subject for a film in the critically acclaimed My Dinner with André. The talkers in question are André Gregory, a renowned experimental theater director, and playwright and actor Wallace Shawn, both of whom play themselves. The film is not a documentary, but a condensation of several real discussions fashioned into a dramatic exchange by Shawn and director Louis Malle. The subtle conflict stems from the differences in the men's characters: Gregory is an inquisitive, uninhibited wanderer, willing to travel to remote lands to take part in unusual foreign rituals, while Shawn is the cynical, realistic New Yorker, more concerned with the challenges and rewards of day-to-day city life. Malle approaches their philosophical yet playful back-and-forth with a straightforward, minimal style that only rarely wanders outside its restaurant setting. The focus therefore falls on Shawn's and Gregory's contrasting verbal styles and facial expressions, highlighting conversational nuances normally lost on film. While the idea of watching any conversation for over 90 minutes, no matter how fascinating, may turn off some viewers, enough audiences have supported the film to make it an art-house classic. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Wallace Shawn
    Wallace Shawn - Himself
  • Andre Gregory
    Andre Gregory - Himself
  • Image coming soon
    Jean Lenauer - Waiter
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