Gregory pictured in 1965.Cinema Guild

Gregory pictured in 1965.Cinema Guild

Andre Gregory: Before and After Dinner Runs Fri., Aug. 9–Thurs., Aug. 15

Andre Gregory: 
Before and After Dinner

Runs Fri., Aug. 9–Thurs., Aug. 15 at Northwest Film Forum. Not rated.
101 minutes.

Running this week with 1981’s My Dinner With Andre, this new documentary profile is an unabashed family affair, as its director frankly admits—she’s Andre Gregory’s second wife. Cindy Kleine married the much older widower late in his career as an avant-garde theater director and occasional actor. (There are a few snippets from My Dinner with Wallace Shawn, plus odd resume entries like Demolition Man.) Her breezy account of their courtship is candid and funny, but she also has serious work to do—a biographical and career overview of her husband, now 79 and a recent cancer survivor.

Not covered in this doc is Gregory’s much-praised new revival of Shawn’s The Designated Mourner. Instead we see intimate rehearsal scenes of Ibsen’s The Master Builder, apparently conducted in his home, a 14-year collaboration with Shawn that Jonathan Demme just filmed. (Yes that’s Julie Hagerty on the couch, running through her lines.) Gregory is famously all about process, and his rehearsals can stretch for months and years. “His basic technique is to follow your impulses,” says Shawn, a fond colleague of four decades. Gregory is also frank about his fulsome, communal art-making being a response to a cold if privileged upbringing. His family escaped Hitler in the ’30s, fortune intact, but there are ugly rumors to address here that his father was also a Nazi collaborator.

Old clips show Gregory’s evolution from ’60s fringe artist to a figure now revered by family, friends, colleagues, and us filmgoers who know him through basically one movie. Of course, he and Shawn were playing parts back then, almost caricatures of themselves. Today, Gregory’s sage pronouncements and enthusiasms—for shamans, nudity, etc.—have a well-practiced polish. (He’s not quite a James Lipton–like figure of self-parody, but in the same room.) Kleine’s portrait never resolves into something so finely honed, but it’s moving and well-timed, a fitting aperitif to a certain favorite Dinner.

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