________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 21 . . . . June 19, 1998

cover Dinner for Two/Dîner Intime.

Janet Perlman (Director), Barrie Angus McLean (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1997.
7 min. 15 sec., VHS, $29.95.
Order Number C 0096 051.

All grades / All ages.
Review by Deborah L. Begoray.

*** /4

When their tongues fly out at the same moment, two chameleons become attached to a single insect. Neither one will give up the prize, and a mighty battle ensues in the rainforest. Various creatures are onlookers including bugs which happily escape, and a hapless frog who cannot capture any dinner at all. The frog eventually becomes the mediator in the dispute and presides over the division of the chameleons' meal in which he also shares.

      Janet Perlman's creatures and their setting are realized in the colours of the rainforest: greens, yellows and blues and even pinks and purples! Her creatures are stylized [I would not have been able to identify the chameleons as such without the liner notes] as are their actions. They do, however, serve to make her point, which is that cooperation is better than war. They can be identified as innocent victims, opportunists, onlookers, etc. As the chameleons are locked in combat, various insect meals escape, happenings which certainly provide opportunities for viewers to discuss the futility of war. I found, however, that the sudden break in the action near the end of the film, to show the chameleons and the frog sitting at a table, jarred my involvement in the narrative of the rainforest battle and reminded me too forcefully that I was supposed to be focussing on the message.

      Dinner for Two is one of the wordless animated films which are part of the "ShowPeace" series produced for UNICEF. It even won a UNICEF prize in Berlin, 1997. However, I was not as impressed with Dinner for Two as I was with When the Dust Settles, another wordless animated film in the same series. Although Dinner for Two certainly meets its purpose as a tool for the discussion of conflict resolution, it fails as a story. The chameleons do not emerge as characters, nor does the frog. I wondered, in fact, what the viewer is to make of the fact that the frog, who is inept as a food catcher, survives as a mediator!

      I would recommend Dinner for Two, therefore, with the reservation that it works best [perhaps only] as a focus for exploration of conflict situations.

Recommended with reservations.

Deborah Begoray is a Language Arts Professor in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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