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Review: 'André Gregory,' minus the dinner

Filmmaker Cindy Kleine profiles her husband, the enigmatic costar and co-writer of 1981's 'My Dinner With Andre.'

May 02, 2013|By Gary Goldstein
  • A scene from "Andr Gregory: Before and After Dinner."
A scene from "Andr Gregory: Before and After Dinner." (Handout )

Watching "André Gregory: Before and After Dinner" often feels like visiting with an elegant, genial, slightly mystifying old friend. Too bad Cindy Kleine, the documentary's producer-director-narrator — and Gregory's wife — didn't better organize this rangy survey of the eclectic actor, theater director, artist and raconteur.

While the title references Louis Malle's 1981 classic "My Dinner With André," which Gregory, now 78, co-wrote and starred in with collaborator and pal Wallace Shawn, Kleine spends little time on Gregory's signature screen role.

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Her focus, such as it is, wavers between two main threads. The first: a rehearsal of Shawn's adaptation of Ibsen's "The Master Builder," which Gregory worked on as an actor-director for 14 years (it was briefly performed for a few invitees, then filmed last year by Jonathan Demme). The second involves Gregory's haunting relationship with his Russian Jewish parents, a mysterious father — and possible Nazi collaborator — and an angry mother. Both strands, like much else here, are intriguing, enjoyably Gregory-centric and somewhat inconclusive.

Rounding out the warm portrait are spotlights on Gregory's early days directing experimental theater, his May-December romance with Kleine, a showing of his drawings, a mix of personal photos and film and theater clips, plus casual bits with cohorts and family members. But did we really need to see Mr. Gregory in his birthday suit?

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"André Gregory: Before and After Dinner." No MPAA Rating. Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills.

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