My Dinner with Andre, Louis Malle’s 1981 film, followed the brilliant dinner chat between sensible, humble actor Wallace Shawn and the eccentrically original theatre director Andre Gregory.
Gregory, a New York disciple of Polish visionary Jerzy Grotowski (Towards a Poor Theatre), had by the early eighties renounced theatre and, pretty much, Western civilization. This new film, more than 30 years later, allows us to catch up on the phlegmatic Gregory (now 79), this time through the perspective of his second wife, Cindy Kleine, a woman 24 years his junior.
Her rambling, oversharing home movie is only moderately interesting when it concerns the marriage, Gregory’s health crisis and his obsession about whether his cold Russian-Jewish father was a Nazi collaborator, but as a chance to share time with a wonderful original mind, the movie has its moments.
The film comes alive when Gregory tells stories of his childhood and when he sits with patient fascination as a group of actors (including Wallace Shawn) sit around his living-room, rehearsing his production of Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder. At the movie’s end, we learn that that the production, 14 years in rehearsal, was eventually shown to a select audience of 22 people a night for a two-week run. Though it’s not mentioned in the film, the production (retitled Fear of Falling) was filmed by Jonathan Demme, and had its debut at last month’s Rome Film Festival.