In the world of film, the works labeled ‘bold’ are often those which showcase shocking events, or put a spotlight on something that most people would rather not see. In such a context, it is an odd fact indeed that one of the most daring and excellent films of 1981 was a movie about two characters sitting down to dinner and having a conversation with each other in real-time: My Dinner with Andre, directed by Louis Malle and written by the two primary actors. Its daring nature, of course, comes from the elegant simplicity of its premise (though also from the far-ranging content of its writing), but that leaves the source of its excellence still to be accounted for.
Folks who have not seen My Dinner with Andre may hold the understandable-yet-mistaken notion that perhaps the film succeeds because the characters tell an exciting story, full of vibrant characters, like some kind of staged reading. In fact, the conversation is not a traditional narrative; the conversation is rather more similar to, well, a conversation. One of the men, the eponymous Andre (played by Andre Gregory), shares some recent biography and some philosophical notions, and the other man, Wally (played by Wallace Shawn), responds to Andre’s ideas. So, what is it that makes this movie work so well?