Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1981. Saga Productions Inc., The Andre Company. Screenplay by Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn. Cinematography by Jeri Sopanen. Produced by George W. George, Beverly Karp. Music by Allen Shawn. Production Design by David Mitchell. Costume Design by Jeff Ullman. Film Editing by Suzanne Baron.
This wonderful movie actually recreates the great sensation of having a wonderful meal with a stimulating companion. Wallace Shawn reluctantly agrees to have dinner with actor and theatre director Andre Gregory despite hardly knowing him, and the two meet at a fancy Manhattan restaurant (actually a freezing cold, abandoned Virginia hotel) where the film spends its time watching them have dinner. Gregory, who like Shawn is playing a marginally fictionalized version of himself, recounts his recent years exploring mystical communes in Eastern Europe after a near nervous breakdown, while Shawn listens in wonder before commenting about what he is hearing. Somehow it gets as far as the very meaning of life being discussed before the cheque arrives, but the brilliant writing never lets it feel planned or theatrical for a moment. Had you known no better you would believe that this film was actually a documentary, and kudos to the late, great Louis Malle for having the cojones to film so risky a project (whose audacious nature attracted massive audiences and made it quite the art house hit in the early 80s).