I am sure you noticed the music at the end of ‘My Dinner With Andre’. Even though it has been a while since you watched it, even though you can’t quite put your finger on the subjects they discussed, you remember the ‘gazing’ at the end, with sentiments of fulfilment, half-satisfaction, confusion about life; accompanied by simple piano melodies. It was Eric Satie’s Gymnopedie No.1. It certainly didn’t steal the role from the film’s main subject: conversation.
For me, without the Satie’s music, I would be confused at the end, would try to decide the winner of the debate. But somehow, I was satisfied with the unfinished talk. Andre was more dominant at the table, more stable and confident about his view of life while Wally couldn’t control his voice and decide for his thoughts while talking. And we also know that Wally was doing nothing about his way of living until he talks to Andre. Maybe Wally was right about ‘enjoying a cup of coffee’ can be an option for happiness, but we doubt that he did enjoy it due to the beginning sequence. Now, at the end, we’re again alone with Wally. But we don’t question him, we’re not feeling very confused or even wonder what he’ll do next.
Is he still under the effect of their conversation? He did tell his girlfriend about their dinner. But beyond that? Very simple melody of Gymnopedie makes me think that he is drown into some thoughts. Clearly, he’s not convinced that spiritualism is the only answer. But maybe because he focused on things he didn’t think regularly (like money), he may enjoy his morning coffee even more? Also, he was amazed that an evening that he avoided, had turned out okay, more than okay even.
Gymnopedies have free-standing forms; in other words they are not preludes, etudes; they are their own. Although this is unusual, you don’t feel the need to label them. They are very simple, but so powerful. Only a few notes, but not relaxing. Disturbing? No. Restless. Wally gazes the New York’s streets while thinking about the memories of the stores brought to him. Just as Gymnopedie No.1, the film has a unique form that is very unusual for its time. There’s no genre to define either of them.
The flow of the conversation was improvisatory (maybe not at the first part where Andre was leading the conversation but definitely after), it’s kind of similar to Gymnopedies melodies. They are not impovisation, but the effect is has is similar to improvisation. You can’t predict where the key is going to land, there’s uncertainty without any major risks. Absence of a music during the discussion, even though there were external noises from restaurant, makes us focus more to the end sequence.
After a conversation like that, what would you play? It should be sophisticated, since we discussed the meaning of life seconds ago. But also, it should be simple so everybody understands our conversation. After all, they talked about ordinary day, ordinary feelings. Music should be thoughtful, but neutral because we are equally divided. Why Gymnopedie No.1 was a perfect choice? It is emotionless. There is some hollowness in it (in a good way). In the first take, you may be leaning to classify it as ‘sad’. But if you think about it carefully, it is distant. You’re not the subject; you are a viewer to this melody. You cannot really relate to it, but you can’t take your eyes off. Just like Wally watching New York streets with bitter-sweet memories. In the beginning, his journey didn’t seem important, now the same journey matters, now he has a different life view. Not spiritual one maybe, but now he discovered his own feelings. Maybe, and probably, he will forget all about it the next day, as we do commonly after thinking we’ll appreciate life from now on. But at that moment, everything was so simple, like simple pleasures of everyday routines; yet complicated. Just like a few notes on a piano.