Contentment

“… And I mean, I just don’t know how anybody could enjoy anything more than I enjoy reading Charlton Heston’s autobiography and, you know, getting up in the morning and having the cup of cold coffee that’s been waiting for me all night still there for me to drink in the morning, and no cockroach or fly has died in it overnight–I’m just so thrilled when I get up, and I see that coffee there, just the way I want it, I just can’t imagine enjoying something else any more than that. I mean, obviously if the cockroach–if there is a dead cockroach in it, then I just have a feeling of disappointment, and I’m sad. …”

–Wallace Shawn, “My Dinner with Andre,” 1981

4 Replies to “Contentment”

  1. When that movie was current, I went to see it expecting something great given that all the critics were raving about it. At the time, I thought it was the most boring movie I had ever seen. Maybe I’ll have to see it again.
    K-

  2. I didn’t see it until years after it came out — the combination of hearing that the movie was about two guys having a long conversation and the critics’ raves turned me off to it. But then, Kate and I developed a non-addict-level theater-going habit, triggered mostly by the fact there used to be a wonderful Shakespeare company that put on its plays in a little WPA-built amphitheater in one of the Berkeley parks. She persuaded me to rent the movie, because it’s really more of a stage play on film, and I did watch it and really liked it. What was it I really liked? Well, I think it’s the mix of the mundane — the expression of pleasure in things like Charlton Heston’s autobiography and finding your morning coffee with no bugs in it — with the message that it’s necessary to periodically shake up your life and your way of seeing things. I also just enjoy seeing these two theater guys taking so much apparent pleasure in working with each other. For that reason, I’d plug another one of their productions — “Uncle Vanya on 42nd Street.” And, just to see someone good having a good time with Shakespeare, I’d recommend a movie that has nothing to do with Shawn or Gregory: “Looking for Richard,” Al Pacino’s little documentary on “Richard III.”

  3. I saw it soon after release. While a student at Berkeley. At the Northside theater. Does that still exist? I haven’t checked out the north side of campus in ages. Tiny, tiny theater that if memory serves was cut into a couple of screening rooms. There are big-screen TVs now larger than the screen on which I saw “My Dinner with Andre.” I thought it was brilliant. And I don’t think I was stoned. OK, maybe I was. Hard to believe I wasn’t. Still, I’ve seen it again, though not in quite some time, and I’ve always loved it. It always brings me back to a fundamental truth of life, that how we see our lives and our place in the world is really up to us. Anyway, yep, “Uncle Vanya on 42nd Street” is great, too.

  4. Dude, we were just doing the “remember when?” tour of bygone Berkeley theaters. The Northside, of course. Your memory of the place squares with mine; it became part of the LaVal’s cheap food empire long ago.
    There was a smaller place in town, the Telegraph Repertory Cinema, upstairs in a two-story building on the southeast corner of Dwight and Telegraph. The Sunset, an honest-to-goodness (small) single-screen movie house on the east side of Telegraph between Haste and Channing; the UC, of course; and the trashy old Rialto, on Gilman between 6th and 7th (I saw “Silent Running” and “2001” there on my birthday in 1977). The Rialto had four screens and no sound-proofing, so you could hear whatever was on in the adjacent theaters. It’s a mini-strip-mall now.

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