September 2021 update – I have re-watched this a couple of times at least since I initially wrote the below snippet in 2007. It still all stands but the grade cannot be a B+. This is a masterpiece and takes on new meanings and provides new perspectives every time (and the older I get) I see it. After seeing it again a couple of weeks ago, it’s bumped to an A+.
I started watching this movie because I heard a lot about it and could not figure out what could be so interesting about two guys chatting over a fancy dinner for two hours. I mean couldn’t this just as easily be a radio play about a simple philosophical discussion? About 20 minutes into it it was clear that, nope, this cannot be. The topic of discussion and the characters are interesting, but that alone is not the subject of this film. It’s the mood they create, their facial expressions and the way they deliver their convictions. Even the surly waiter and his mannerisms are memorable. In simple films like that I think it is important to read up some details afterwards. Was the dinner in a real restaurant? Was it in real time? Is it all scripted? No, this was a studio. No, it took over three months to film the dinner with Malle directing down to the millimeter the camera angles and lighting. Yes, the whole thing is scripted. It is that last point that makes the delivery even more intriguing. For one who does not know, the delivery is so perfect that it seems the actors are not spouting a rehearsed script, but simply chatting over a fine meal. That to me is the point if this unique film.