Tell me, why do we require a trip to Mount Everest in order to be able to perceive one moment of reality? I mean... I mean, is Mount Everest more "real" than New York? I mean, isn't New York "real"? I mean, you see, I think if you could become fully aware of what existed in the cigar store next door to this restaurant, I think it would just blow your brains out! I mean... I mean, isn't there just as much "reality" to be perceived in the cigar store as there is on Mount Everest?
[voiceover] The life of a playwright is tough. It's not easy as some people seem to think. You work hard writing plays and nobody puts them on. You take up other lines of work to try to make a living. I became an actor, and people don't hire you. So you just spend your days doing the errands of your trade. Today I had to be up by ten in the morning to make some important phone calls. Then I'd gone to the stationery store to buy envelopes. Then to the xerox shop. There were dozens of things to do. By five o'clock, I'd finally made it to the post office and mailed off several copies of my plays, meanwhile checking constantly with my answering service to see if my agent had called with any acting work. In the morning, the mailbox had just been stuffed with bills! What was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to pay them? After all, I was already doing my best! I've lived in this city all my life. I grew up on the Upper East Side, and when I was 10 years old, I was rich! I was an aristocrat. Riding around in taxis, surrounded by comfort, and all I thought about was art and music. Now I'm 36, and all I think about is money!
[Upon entering the restaurant] I was beginning to realize that the only way to make this evening bearable, would be to ask Andre a few questions. Asking questions always relaxes me. In fact, I sometimes think that my secret profession is that I'm a private investigator, a detective. I always enjoy finding out about people. Even if they are in absolute agony, I always find it very interesting.
I'm adequate to do any sort of a task, but I'm not adequate just to be a human being.
[voiceover] All the other customers seemed to have left hours ago. We got the bill, and André paid for our dinner! I treated myself to a taxi. I rode home through the city streets. There wasn't a street, there wasn't a building, that wasn't connected to some memory in my mind. There, I was buying a suit with my father. There, I was having an ice cream soda after school. When I finally came in, Debbie was home from work, and I told her everything about my dinner with Andre.
Remember that moment when Marlon Brando sent the Indian woman to accept the Oscar, and everything went haywire? Things just very rarely go haywire now. If you're just operating by habit, then you're not really living.
I wouldn't put on an electric blanket for any reason. First, I'd be worried if I get electrocuted. No, I don't trust technology. But I mean, the main thing, Wally, is that I think that kind of comfort just separates you from reality in a very direct way.
Do you know, in Sanskrit the root of the verb "to be" is the same as "to grow" or "to make grow".
Things don't affect people the way they used to. I mean it may very well be that 10 years from now people will pay $10,000 in cash to be castrated just in order to be affected by something.
We're bored. We're all bored now. But has it ever occurred to you, Wally, that the process that creates this boredom that we see in the world now, may very well be a self perpetuating, unconscious form of brainwashing created by a world totalitarian government based on money and that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks, and its not just a question of individual survival, Wally, but that somebody who's bored is asleep, and somebody who's asleep will not say no?
Andre: What does it do to us, Wally, living in an environment where something as massive as the seasons or winter or cold, don't in any way affect us? I mean, we're animals after all. I mean... what does that mean? I think that means that instead of living under the sun and the moon and the sky and the stars, we're living in a fantasy world of our own making.
Wally: Yeah, but I mean, I would never give up my electric blanket, Andre. I mean, because New York is cold in the winter. I mean, our apartment is cold! It's a difficult environment. I mean, our life is tough enough as it is. I'm not looking for ways to get rid of a few things that provide relief and comfort. I mean, on the contrary, I'm looking for more comfort because the world is very abrasive. I mean, I'm trying to protect myself because, really, there's these abrasive beatings to be avoided everywhere you look!
Andre: But, Wally, don't you see that comfort can be dangerous? I mean, you like to be comfortable and I like to be comfortable too, but comfort can lull you into a dangerous tranquility.
Wally: Suppose you're going through some kind of hell in your own life, well you would love to know if friends have experience similar things. But we just don't dare to ask each other.
Andre: No, It would be like asking your friend to drop his role.
Andre: Our minds are just focused on these goals and plans, which in themselves are not reality.
Wally: Goals and plans are not... they're fantasy. They're part of a dream-life.
One of the gifts of "My Dinner with Andre" is that we share so many of the experiences. Although most of the movie literally consists of two men talking, here's a strange thing: We do not spend the movie just passively listening to them talk. At first, director Louis Malle's sedate series of images (close-ups, two-shots, reaction shots) calls attention to itself, but as Gregory continues to talk, the very simplicity of the visual style renders it invisible. And like the listeners at the feet of a master storyteller, we find ourselves visualizing what Gregory describes, until this film is as filled with visual images as a radio play — more filled, perhaps, than a conventional feature film. ... The movie is not ponderous, annoyingly profound, or abstract. It is about living, and Gregory seems to have lived fully in his five years of dropping out. Shawn is the character who seems more like us. He listens, he nods eagerly, he is willing to learn, but — something holds him back. Pragmatic questions keep asking themselves. He can't buy Gregory's vision, not all the way. He'd like to, but this is a real world we have to live in, after all, and if we all danced with the druids in the forests of Poland, what would happen to the market for fortune cookies?
Someone asked me the other day if I could name a movie that was entirely devoid of cliches. I thought for a moment, and then answered, My Dinner With Andre. Now I have seen the movie again; a restored print is going into release around the country, and I am impressed once more by how wonderfully odd this movie is, how there is nothing else like it. It should be unwatchable, and yet those who love it return time and again, enchanted.