Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: André Gregory: Before and After Dinner

The rich life and world of a true theatre artist, seen through the eyes of an adoring (if somewhat aggressive) wife.

April 3, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1374478-Andre-Gregory-Before-and-After-Dinner_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

His name is one of the rare, remaining ones that is still whispered in hushed tones of awe and recognition in theatre circles. Since gaining major recognition in 1970 for his radically avant-garde staging of Alice in Wonderland, André Gregory has been an integral, important part of the New York theatre world. He continues to be active, acting and directing, specifically those infamous years-long explorations of classic plays by the masters in intimate rehearsal spaces, like his own living room. (Vanya on 42nd Street was the triumphant filmed record of his Chekhov project.)

In her documentary André Gregory: Before and After Dinner, his wife, Cindy Kleine, captures this tireless artist at work and at genial, rusticated rest, and this time the crucial play in question is Ibsen’s The Master Builder. The “Dinner” in the film’s title refers of course to My Dinner with Andre, the ecstatically received 1981 Louis Malle movie which so memorably teamed him with Wallace Shawn, just a couple of white guys sitting around and talking. Shawn, along with numerous other garrulous, entertaining Gregory intimates, appears prominently in the doc, particularly as he is essaying Ibsen’s title character, and clips from their film are shown here, presenting them in their not-so-dewy youth.

It’s a pleasant, warm portrait—with maybe a bit too much of Kleine’s personal history, including a strutting montage of her every past lover—which presents Gregory as the gentlest and most theatrically prescient of gurus. He’s a blessedly fabulous raconteur—not above “printing the legend”—with a dry, literate wit, which Kleine must have given heavenly thanks for every morning of her shoot. He describes his childhood, with his parents “like two insane rulers of a little Balkan country.” For all his artistic aspirations, however, he is not above making a buck, and he ruefully refers to the character he played in Stallone’s Demolition Man as “an evil homosexual villain who has his eye gouged out by an ice pick.” (A clip from the opus is shown, revealing Gregory camping it up shamelessly.)

The doc is revealing in a number of ways—at one point Gregory is even shown full-frontally in all his near 80-year-old glory. A central mystery of Gregory’s life—and of this film—is the question of his Jewish father’s Nazi involvement. Suspecting him of being an economic spy under Hitler who managed to escape Europe, country by country, just before Nazi invasions, Gregory consults various historians, busily researching the issue in foreign libraries. This adds a vital injection of drama to what otherwise would be full-stop hagiography, with Gregory’s horror at the possible truth intriguingly outmatched by his resigned acceptance of it, saying that this would explain his father’s often scary, cold and bipolar behavior.

Gregory’s life has been a rich tapestry of experience, including a fascinating Beverly Hills childhood, as he recalls a (perhaps mythic) tennis foursome at his home that consisted of Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Thomas Mann and Errol Flynn. Kleine‘s film shows that, along with his refulgent past, his present is equally full—one of those enviable and highly deserved Manhattan existences studded with culture and simpatico, successful friends—and he is some damned good company.


Film Review: André Gregory: Before and After Dinner

The rich life and world of a true theatre artist, seen through the eyes of an adoring (if somewhat aggressive) wife.

April 3, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1374478-Andre-Gregory-Before-and-After-Dinner_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

His name is one of the rare, remaining ones that is still whispered in hushed tones of awe and recognition in theatre circles. Since gaining major recognition in 1970 for his radically avant-garde staging of Alice in Wonderland, André Gregory has been an integral, important part of the New York theatre world. He continues to be active, acting and directing, specifically those infamous years-long explorations of classic plays by the masters in intimate rehearsal spaces, like his own living room. (Vanya on 42nd Street was the triumphant filmed record of his Chekhov project.)

In her documentary André Gregory: Before and After Dinner, his wife, Cindy Kleine, captures this tireless artist at work and at genial, rusticated rest, and this time the crucial play in question is Ibsen’s The Master Builder. The “Dinner” in the film’s title refers of course to My Dinner with Andre, the ecstatically received 1981 Louis Malle movie which so memorably teamed him with Wallace Shawn, just a couple of white guys sitting around and talking. Shawn, along with numerous other garrulous, entertaining Gregory intimates, appears prominently in the doc, particularly as he is essaying Ibsen’s title character, and clips from their film are shown here, presenting them in their not-so-dewy youth.

It’s a pleasant, warm portrait—with maybe a bit too much of Kleine’s personal history, including a strutting montage of her every past lover—which presents Gregory as the gentlest and most theatrically prescient of gurus. He’s a blessedly fabulous raconteur—not above “printing the legend”—with a dry, literate wit, which Kleine must have given heavenly thanks for every morning of her shoot. He describes his childhood, with his parents “like two insane rulers of a little Balkan country.” For all his artistic aspirations, however, he is not above making a buck, and he ruefully refers to the character he played in Stallone’s Demolition Man as “an evil homosexual villain who has his eye gouged out by an ice pick.” (A clip from the opus is shown, revealing Gregory camping it up shamelessly.)

The doc is revealing in a number of ways—at one point Gregory is even shown full-frontally in all his near 80-year-old glory. A central mystery of Gregory’s life—and of this film—is the question of his Jewish father’s Nazi involvement. Suspecting him of being an economic spy under Hitler who managed to escape Europe, country by country, just before Nazi invasions, Gregory consults various historians, busily researching the issue in foreign libraries. This adds a vital injection of drama to what otherwise would be full-stop hagiography, with Gregory’s horror at the possible truth intriguingly outmatched by his resigned acceptance of it, saying that this would explain his father’s often scary, cold and bipolar behavior.

Gregory’s life has been a rich tapestry of experience, including a fascinating Beverly Hills childhood, as he recalls a (perhaps mythic) tennis foursome at his home that consisted of Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Thomas Mann and Errol Flynn. Kleine‘s film shows that, along with his refulgent past, his present is equally full—one of those enviable and highly deserved Manhattan existences studded with culture and simpatico, successful friends—and he is some damned good company.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

PK
Film Review: PK

An alien trying to return home tangles with religious authorities in a low-key Bollywood message drama. More »

A Small Section
Film Review: A Small Section of the World

Worthy but uninvolving documentary about the coffee-producing women of Costa Rica. More »

Sagrada
Film Review: Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation

The fabulous 130-year work-in-progress that is Barcelona's Sagrada Familia cathedral, as well as its crazy-brilliant originator, Antonio Gaudi, is the focus of this vividly informative documentary. More »

Inside the Mind of Leonardo
Film Review: Inside the Mind of Leonardo in 3D

Documentary-feature hybrid that offers unexpected insight into the world of Leonardo da Vinci, but nonetheless suffers from a heavy hand and pretentious sensibility. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Into the Woods
Film Review: Into the Woods

Over-scaled, too dark and only intermittently charming Sondheim musical adaptation does a disservice to a great cast and is often so noisy you can't even appreciate the music. More »

The H obbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Film Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

After rewriting the rules for modern fantasy cinema, for the better and worse, Peter Jackson’s six-film Tolkien saga slams, bangs and shudders to a long-overdue conclusion. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here