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My Dinner With Andre A extended conversation between two old friends over dinner proves an unexpectedly fascinating subject for a film in the critically acclaimed My Dinner with André. The talkers in question are André Gregory, a renowned experimental theater director, and playwright and actor Wallace Shawn, both of whom play themselves. The film is not a documentary, but a condensation of several real discussions fashioned into a dramatic exchange by Shawn and director Louis Malle. The subtle conflict stems from the differences in the men's characters: Gregory is an inquisitive, uninhibited wanderer, willing to travel to remote lands to take part in unusual foreign rituals, while Shawn is the cynical, realistic New Yorker, more concerned with the challenges and rewards of day-to-day city life. Malle approaches their philosophical yet playful back-and-forth with a straightforward, minimal style that only rarely wanders outside its restaurant setting. The focus therefore falls on Shawn's and Gregory's contrasting verbal styles and facial expressions, highlighting conversational nuances normally lost on film. While the idea of watching any conversation for over 90 minutes, no matter how fascinating, may turn off some viewers, enough audiences have supported the film to make it an art-house classic. Vanya on 42nd Street In the late 1980s, noted theatrical director Andre Gregory assembled a group of friends and actors and began rehearsing a new translation of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya by David Mamet, not with any specific performance in mind but as a way of exploring the beauty and precise construction of Chekhov's play. Louis Malle, a friend of Gregory's, became interested in the project and spent two weeks filming Gregory's actors as they performed Uncle Vanya without an audience in a run-down theater near New York's Times Square. In these performances, the line between theater and real life is blurred as conversations between actors -- juggling take-out cups of coffee and wearing street clothes -- slowly grow into a superb performance of Chekhov's classic, with Wallace Shawn as Vanya, Julianne Moore as Yelena, Brooke Smith as Sonya, and Larry Pine as Dr. Astrov. With a certain sad irony, this marvelously realized adaptation of a play about people wondering what they've done with their lives proved to be Louis Malle's final film; he died of cancer in 1995. A Master Builder The Jonathan Demme-directed A Master Builder constitutes an ingenious and fluid filmization of André Gregory's stage production of Henrik Ibsen's 1892 play Master Builder Solness, translated from the Norwegian by Wallace Shawn. The basic outlines of the drama will be familiar to followers of the legendary playwright. Shawn stars as Halvard Solness, a brilliant architect lying on his deathbed in a sprawling home. Nearby are his acolyte/protégé Ragnar Brovik (Jeff Biehl); Ragnar's dying father Knut Brovik (Gregory); Kaia Fosli (Emily Cass McDonnell), a woman engaged to Ragnar and carrying on a clandestine affair with Halvard; Halvard's long-suffering wife, Aline (Julie Hagerty); and an attending physician, Dr. Herdal (Larry Pine). Knut approaches Halvard and asks that he provide a series of recommendations to help advance the career of Ragnar; Halvard refuses, insisting that he will do nothing that may rob himself of his position as the community's premier architect.
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