Back to Metroland's Home Page!
 Columns & Opinions
   The Simple Life
   Myth America
 News & Features
   This Week's Review
   The Dining Guide
 Cinema & Video
   Weekly Reviews
   The Movie Schedule
   Listen Here
   Art Murmur
   Night & Day
   Event Listings
   View Classified Ads
   Place a Classified Ad
   Online Personals
   Place A Print Ad
 About Metroland
   Where We Are
   Who We Are
   What We Do
   Work For Us
   Place An Ad

Visions of Andre

The good news is that, after many attempts, I finally managed to stay awake for the whole movie; the bad news is that I think, in so doing, I proved that I am doomed never to be a mystic.

The night before last, for the first time, I made it all the way through My Dinner With Andre—a triumph of no small measure. Starting back somewhere in the middle ’80s, I got it in my head that this was an important movie for me to see, an important movie for me to like. I’m not certain why, exactly: It was set in Manhattan; it was a couple of artsy quasi-
intellectuals talking philosophy and spirituality over dinner in an upscale restaurant; it had almost no action whatsoever. Those are all things likely to appeal to me—an affected, aspiring metropolitan idler—but, even so, I was driven.

In part, I’m sure it was the fact that it was famously off-putting in its pretension. (I remember a Saturday Night Live sketch hawking ironic My Dinner With Andre action figures.) The gist was obvious: This is for eggheads only. I guess I viewed that as a challenge. My teenage self thought, “Well, yeah, of course, most people are morons. But I bet I’d get it.”

So, when I was old enough—and video-rental joints were common enough—I set out to prove just how rarefied my tastes were. Admittedly, I had set the bar pretty low; I mean, it’s not like we’re talking about Proust or the Ring Cycle, here. But even my paltry ambitions went unmet.

It wasn’t that I didn’t get the movie, per se. It was that I simply could not stay conscious while it was on. Middle of the day, middle of the night—it didn’t matter. Put My Dinner With Andre on, and I was out before the leads ordered drinks. Every freakin’ time.

Privately, my self-esteem started to suffer.

Fortunately, the movie was not one that was likely to be bandied about a whole lot among my peers, and the ones that were—films by the Coen Brothers, for example, or David Lynch or Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley, and so on—I had no problem with. Hell, I even liked the stiff and snooty Whit Stillman stuff. I thought Barcelona was funny, for chrissakes.

But My Dinner With Andre was beating me.

A normal, well-adjusted person would have given up on it altogether, simply written it off as a phenomenally dull movie and moved on. Yes, well, I’m sick, what do you want? I’m competitive and intellectually masochistic. I mean, I once read a Chuck Palahniuk book cover to cover, rather than admitting defeat. It was like having the bends, but I finished it and, now, I need never read him again. I have wrestled to the ground works ranging from unwieldy, amateurish, slight, vulgar, self-indulgent, tawdry, puerile and cowardly to purposely obscure, academically insular, fey and even French. I finish what I start.

Cue music: I read both American Psycho and The Order of Things—each twice.

But My Dinner With Andre had me on the ropes.

One winter, in the late ’90s, at a particularly low ebb in my private life, I decided to give it another shot. I was living in a working warehouse (whatever your fashionable loft-squatting hipster friends tell you, by the way, this is not as much fun as it sounds) and augmenting the insufficient efforts of the mammoth, ceiling-mounted gas-heat blower with a regular and liberal application of faux whiskey sours (Jim Beam and Squirt. It’s disgusting). This seemed the perfect time to have another run at the flick. And the strangest thing happened.

I fell asleep.

That’s not the strange part. The movie puts me to sleep; we’ve established that. And, what’s more, I was drunk on bourbon and citrus soda. So, no surprises there. But what was odd was that I fell asleep just as Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn are being seated and, when I awoke, I still heard Andre Gregory talking but the image on the screen was of a dark-skinned man clad in feathers running through a dense, vividly green—even threateningly green—jungle. The camera work was shaky and blurry, almost nauseatingly so. Gregory’s voice droned on over the shot, and the contrast between his chirpy urbanity and the unsettlingly intense, ambiguous and aboriginal scene was jarring.

What the fuck is this? The emotional effect, I recall, was like some evil combination of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and The Most Dangerous Game.

And then I fell back asleep.

The next day I rewound and returned the movie. Some time thereafter I was talking to a friend, a friend who had made it through the movie, and I asked him if at some point the film ditched the two-
Manhattanites-chatting-about-Manhattan format. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “The one guy goes on and on about all these spiritual experiences he’s had all over the world, with, like, fakirs and swamis and stuff.”

Well, that explains it, I thought. That must have been what I saw.

But the thing is—I can now say, having made it through the movie myself—it doesn’t explain it at all. In the film, Gregory does go on about his tripped-out experiences. But he only describes them. They’re never shown.

So, my theory is this: After years of struggling with the movie, I had a Carlos Castaneda-style mystical experience. The movie was sending me a message that I was to become the, like, Rasputin to the New Yorker set. Had I run with the vision, it might have taken me somewhere glorious and weird—some private Star Chamber at the Russian Tea Room or 21. But, inattentive and insufficiently open to the rich and giving mystery of My Dinner With Andre, I blew it.

And the only other movie that’s ever put me to sleep is Howard the Duck.

—John Rodat

Send A Letter to Our Editor
Back Home
Click here for your favorite eBay items
click for home delivery  Changing the way America buys cars
WebVitamins Why Pay More?
Copyright © 2002 Lou Communications, Inc., 4 Central Ave., Albany, NY 12210. All rights reserved.