“Privacy is an Outdated Concept” in Andre Gregory: Before and After Dinner


“Privacy is an outdated concept,” Wallace Shawn quips in Andre Gregory: Before and After Dinner. If he only knew! Shawn’s comment comes after realizing he’s being filmed, but it could serve as a rejoinder to this documentary itself, an often too-intimate portrait of theater director Andre Gregory by his wife, Cindy Kleine. While watching scenes as mundane as Gregory applying a Spider-Man bandage to his cut finger or being recognized by a cashier in a grocery store, you may wonder: Would this film exist in a pre-Kardashian universe? Rooted in restlessness, the doc cycles through a myriad of subjects with a desultory air. It’s alternately a love letter from Kleine to Gregory about their May-December romance; a behind-the-scenes look at Gregory’s production of Ibsen’s The Master Builder; a psychological examination of Gregory’s relationship with his ice-cold parents; and a detective tale about the possibility that Gregory’s father was a Nazi spy. This last thread may seem the most tantalizing, but after some European sleuthing proves inconclusive, Kleine narrates that what Gregory’s father may have done 70 years ago doesn’t really matter. So much for narrative stakes! Some of the charming personages in the film—namely, Gregory and Shawn—do bring liveliness and vitality to the picture, and Gregory manages to deliver a terribly moving assessment of the inevitability of death toward the end of the film, but viewers may find the narrative aimlessness here frustrating. Perhaps a narrower scope—like one dinner?—could have proven more manageable.