James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Andre the Prophet

I recently saw, for the first time, the 1981 movie My Dinner With Andre. This is probably Exhibit A for the influence of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel's television show that championed small, independent films. This contribution to the culture can not be underestimated.

I can not say whether the movie is "deep" or "profound." Ironically, those who find it pretentious are probably pretentious themselves, whereas those who love it, like me, probably don't really get it (if there's anything to "get.")

But I was impressed how the themes resonate to this day. With minor changes, the movie could have been shot today. Or in 1957. While the Nazi horror seems to loom large in Andre's consciousness, I think the same concerns were being felt even in 1927.

Andre is a theatrical director who flipped out and travelled the world trying to find himself for the better part of five years. One of his theatrical colleagues had also quit directing, saying that theater had no point since all anyone did in real life was play roles and "perform" for other people. One of the questions in the film is being-as-doing compared to being-as-being.

Wally, the dinner companion, is himself a playwright who aims to get the audience to experience reality in a new way, and who desires greter authenticity from people. But he's not as mystical, reflective, or self-absorbed as Andre, and enjoys the "simple" things as well as the technology that makes life easier.

Andre's concern, however, is that people are turning into robots, going through their routines and playing their roles without thought. And what really struck a cord is his comment that he feels that America is turning into a concentration camp, except it is the people who are building it, and the prisoners are also the prison guards.

Whatever else you may think of Andre, I think he was on the mark here. Life has become so easy in one sense, yet so busy in another sense, that we do not stop to pay attention to what's really going on around us. I don't know if Andre would have predicted someone like George Bush coming to power and destroying habeas corpus, but he certainly wouldn't have been surprised that the American people have gone along with it. They are too busy playing their own roles in life to stop and think maybe we should get a different script.

1 comment:

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