Wednesday, November 25, 2009

my coffee and pie with andre

28 years late to the restaurant, I rent a VHS tape of My Dinner with Andre and watch the film. I remember hearing the title in my childhood, and although my father had already slipped me past the guard in search of movies like Jane Fonda's Barbarella and The Band's The Last Waltz, neither of my parents took me to this Wallace-Shawn joint.

Like so many of the movies of Spike Lee and Woody Allen, it is in its own way a tribute to New York City, and in this case, a tribute to the kind of conversation that could only make it there. In other words, if you're from South Carolina, or at least living in these quieter parts the past few years, there's a good chance your reaction to the movie will be like mine: these people talk too much! And so, not too late at night, you'll get exhausted midway through, and you'll finish watching the next day with the aid of dessert and strong coffee.

And yet of course, it is a rather excellent film although I could not tell you why this is so.

I may watch it again before returning it to its quiet, resting place among all the other stodgy films no one ever checks out of the university library. (I cannot be certain, but I have a feeling the members of our community who would watch and enjoy it are people who have already seen it; most students would ignore it because it is VHS, and they have only packed a DVD player for their movie-time leisure.)

For now, I find myself trying to place it in the early 1980s and wondering what it was doing there. After all, as a nation, were we not high on Lake Placid gold in Olympic ice hockey as well as the chest beating of Reagan's election and subsequent freeing of the American hostages? How dare these two characters sit down and talk so much about the kinds of things they talk about. And yet, there is something remarkable about how late in the film, in front of his patrons, the waiter takes a drag and then extinguishes his cigarette. I do not believe for a moment that the screenwriters intended for us to believe this silent server could be mafia or KGB.


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