Combustible Celluloid
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With: Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory
Written by: Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory
Directed by: Louis Malle
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 110
Date: 10/07/1981

My Dinner with Andre (1981)

4 Stars (out of 4)

To Grow

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This small-budgeted wonder was famously rescued from obscurity after Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert enthusiastically praised it on their TV show. And, although it's known as just a two-guys-sitting-and-talking movie, it's far more than that. Playwright and actor Wallace Shawn reluctantly has dinner with his old friend, theater director Andre Gregory (both playing themselves). Gregory relates some amazing tales of bizarre travels and theater exercises throughout the world, and, eventually, Shawn shares his reactions to these tales. The dialogue is amazingly visual and descriptive, and you may come away feeling as if you've seen some of the stories. The screenplay -- written by the two men -- also follows a natural three-act structure, with its own logical, dramatic turning points. Celebrated director Louis Malle ties it all together. The trio reunited years later for the equally impressive Vanya on 42nd Street (1994).

In 2015, the Criterion Collection released a new Blu-ray edition, an update of their 2009 DVD. It's also included in the Andre Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films box set. It's now presented in high-def with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. There's a 2009 interview with Gregory and Shawn, conducted by filmmaker Noah Baumbach, a 1982 episode of a BBC show featuring Shawn and Malle. The liner notes booklet includes an essay by critic Amy Taubin, and the prefaces written by Gregory and Shawn for the 1981 publication of the film's screenplay.

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