food in the arts


Prod: George W. George and Beverly Karp/ Director: Louis Malle/ 110 minutes/ André Gregory, Wallace Shawn/ 1981
My Dinner with Andre

During the 1980s, Wallace Shawn, a writer and playwright, is forced to attend a dinner with André Gregory, a burned-out theatre director. Except for a few minutes at both the beginning and end of this film "action" all takes place at the dinner table; we get to eavesdrop on their entire conversation. André talks about his journeys to exotic locations, and amidst these stories we also get to observe an entire meal. 

We get to see Gregory and Shawn read and select from the menus and also the various courses as they are served. The best food moment in this film is when the quail is served; it looks delicious but the serving is quite small. This causes the diner to make the remark, "I didn't realize how small they are." The focus of this film is the conversation, not the food. Considering that almost the entire film occurs at the dinner table it is worthy of being considered a food film. However very little screen time is devoted to the food, which is very rarely shown at a good angle and is anything but spectacular, paling in comparison even to the dishes in SOUL FOOD. Also, a film that is an endless conversation between two men can at times be difficult to sit through for a mere glimpse of quail.

In this classic "imaginary conversation" between friends Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, Wallace establishes his plebian but wonderfully naturalistic voice early on when he steers away from the epicene appetizers and goes for the Czech peasant soup:

ANDRE: ...And then, to begin with, a terrine de poisson.
WALLACE: What is that?
ANDRE: It's, uh, a pâté, light, made of fish.
WALLACE: Does it have bones in it?
ANDRE: No bones.
WALLACE: Well, um, what is the, uh, bramborová polévka?
WAITER: It's a potato soup. It's quite delicious.
WALLACE: Oh. Well, great. I'll have that.

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