I know -- I'm supposed to like 'Manhattan' more. I know -- this
straddles the line between homage and rip-off when it comes to
But it's so physically beautiful, and so full of unforgettable moments
of humor and heartbreak, that I can watch it over and over and just see
more and more in it. It's an odd, wonderful mix of sad, angry, surreal
and very funny. It's a chilling, hysterical look at the emptiness
of being famous, at what it means to not trust your own worth, what it
means to be scared of happiness.
The jump cut sequence with Charlotte Rampling is one of the best, most
incisive pieces of film-making I've ever seen. Period.
For me, it's a tragically underrated film. I'm thrilled to see it
getting support here. I guess it can be validly criticized, but my
emotional reaction to the nit-picking is 'who cares?' This is brave,
unique, special film-making in a world with far too little.
on 8 July 2013
Stardust Memories (1980) for me is one of Woody Allen's very best films even though it doesn't seem to have dazzled critics in the same way as Manhatten or Annie Hall. The humor is bitter - verging on sour - as we chart the visit of film director Sandy Bates (Woody himself) to a festival held in his honor. Everyone congratulates him on his previous funny movies that now he'd rather forget, intent as he is on making 'serious' films. At this stage of his career Woody had had enough of the celebrity side of the film business and used the film to vent his bile on all his pet hates. In between the sycophants and fan geeks who latch on to him like leeches, Woody takes us through the women of his life, most significantly the manic depressive Dorrie (a superbly neurotic Charlotte Rampling), his current mistress, Isobel (a sexy and very feminine Marie-Christine Barrault) and the inevitable young new attraction, Daisy (Jessica Harper). His perceptions are by turn witty, poignant, bitter-sweet and revealing about the mechanisms that lie behind this nebbish schlmiel from the Bronx. His ripping-off of 8 1/2 enraged the Fellini family at the time, but it didn't stop Woody from later ripping off La Strada for Sweet and Lowdown as well! Also, there is a fair bit of borrowing from Ingmar Bergman, most notably in the 2 minute close up jump-cut feast on Dorrie's face. At the time many attacked Woody's stealing from his favorite European directors. Looking back after 30 years or so however and his 'stealing' now seems vindicated because he still managed to turn his films into something both honest to himself and uniquely American. He had spent much of the early 70s churning out 'funnies' such as Sleeper, Bananas and Love and Death. It now seems obvious that Woody felt his Oscar for Annie Hall and the critical acclaim for Manhatten allowed him to go beyond his stand-up comic routine and make exactly what he wanted to. The fact that the totally serious Bergman-inflected Interiors bombed (it's a very good film by the way) no doubt forms the core inspiration for the sarcasm showcased in Stardust Memories. Far from being a 'steal' the film now seems a remarkably honest portrait of the artist at that stage of his career in 1979. Going back to it after watching his more recent efforts (superficial fluff like Whatever Works, Scoop!, Cassandra's Dream and Anything Else?), it comes as a wonderful blast of fresh air from the past. In the late 70s and early 80s he really was one of the best around. I urge anyone who hasn't seen this film to buy it and see how good he used to be. The soundtrack is wonderful as per usual, Gordon Willis's b/w photography looks fabulous and the jokes come thick and fast. It's one to relish, especially at this give away price...
on 26 February 2004
The Woodmeister himself has declared Stardust Memories one of his best movies, and I have to agree with the funny old ferret. Allen's early career consisted of laugh-a-minute slapstick comedies, which were wonderful (especially Love & Death in 1975); from Manhattan(1979) onwards he toned everything down a bit, replacing the slapstick with human drama, although always leaving in the priceless oneliners. I feel that Stardust Memories is his best film because it manages to meld the comedy and drama together better than all of his other attempts. (I'm not a big fan of Manhattan, I think it's dull; Crimes & Misdemeanors is perhaps his second-best movie-wovie.) There's some out-and-out hilarious comedy, particularly in the scenes that show clip's from the Allen character's early films, and the drama is complex and moving. There are moments of bad taste, and the film sometimes seems geared to patronise Allen's fans, but these are brave moves, and make it all the more memorable. Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, brilliantly written, astoundingly funny, powerfully touching, insanely insane, comically surreal, slyly self-referential, overtly recommendable to friends and family, oven-fresh and microwave-compatible.
PS Keep your eyes peeled for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it from a young Sharon Stone at the beginning. The old dear keeps her legs close together.
on 13 August 2007
A film presumed autobiographical by many and, therefore, considered insulting by some. When Allen's character becomes disillusioned and unhappy with the limitations imposed upon him by his audience, his financers and his life, he seems to grow resentful and begin to attack.
Taken at face value, this is a comedy of grotesques: it's funny, desperate, purposely incoherent and confused. It's made that way, I imagine, to show the protagonist's state of mind: much of the film actually takes part therein. This film is a perfect release for DVD; the black and white photography is best seen 'sharp' and, as I say, it's the kind of movie better seen again. I started to like it the second time I saw it; now - I love it!
on 15 August 2011
This is one of Woody Allen's best films. Shot in black and white after the highly rated Manhatten, this film seems to have been underrated and neglected. In fact, it has an excellent script and great cast. Both funny and serious by turns, the film explores the dilemmas and temptations facing a popular and successful artist. The artist in question is undoubtedly Woody Allen himself, by another name. Perhaps this self-reference caused critics and audiences to baulk at the time. Influences include Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini but the film is typically Woody with some hilarious throw-away lines. Charlotte Rampling is terrific as the unstable love interest but there are other possible lovers, from casual to serious. The opening sequence (which includes a brief glimpse of Sharon Stone) is incredibly funny summing up feelings which we all have sometimes.
Highly recommended to everyone but especially to Woody Allen fans.
I put off seeing this for years. My mother introduced me to Woody Allen and always insisted Stardust Memories was a disappointing film. Well, I think it's time she watched it again.
The flipside of Manhattan (1979), Stardust Memories (1980) is another b/w movie, sort of an arthouse Sullivans Travels, in so far as the director character wants to switch from comedy to more serious fare. I think it is Woody's most successful amalgamation of Bergman's influence with his own innate comedic flare. Actually, Annie Hall is a better comparison than Manhattan because once again Woody's protagonist is reflecting on a past love affair, whilst being overwhelmed by the attentions of admirers at a festival of his films. The scattergun questions and comments thrust at and around him by his fans and critics are hilariously perceptive, and the flights of fancy beautifully integrated and dovetailed. Personally, I think the film might be just a fraction too long - even at 85mins - but there's so much to laugh at, admire and enjoy, it hardly matters. I guess, it's a summation of his work from the 1970s, before the new period with Mia Farrow and Allen's increasing delight in nostalgia.
Charlotte Rampling is splendid as Sandy's (Allen) lost love - the scene where they break up is very cleverly done. There's also a lovely cut away from a dialogue with space aliens (you'll see) to the image of lots of air balloons coming in to land. You can see how Allen must have caught his target audience off guard with the disorientating opening scene, the coda of Sandy's new film which the studio execs loathe. Truth is, it's very poetic, expertly done, even as a parody, and in true Woody Allen fashion, intellectual pretension is undercut by humour immediately.
Sandy may want to confront life's tragedy, but Stardust Memories is a comedy with its teeth bared. You'll enjoy it, a masterpiece, a world away from some of the recent euro stinkers.
Stardust Memories was almost a nail in the coffin for Allen's career- journalists mimicked those in the film regarding who this film was about, while this would be the last film he made for United Artists (who would fold after the failure of Heaven's Gate). It seems very bitter & bleak, after the joys of Annie Hall & Manhattan- perhaps a reaction to the faulure of the Bergman-style Interiors(1978)?
Shot in black&white by Gordon Willis (The Godfather) Stardust Memories resembles Fellini's 8 1/2 - though obviously it's not close to that. Allen plays a comic-filmmaker (who could that be based on, then?) who is celebrated at a film festival one weekend, the film moving on several levels- between films he has made (one with Tony Roberts, who plays an actor here, resembles a short story of Allen's) & an 8 1/2 style dream on a train. There are women- the insane Charlotte Rampling (a similar character pops up in Husbands&Wives), the French woman (Marie-Christine Barrault) who gives some European allure to proceedings & the fan (Jessica Harper, not as barmy as in Play MIsty for Me)- who resembles too many of Woody's females (Juliette Lewis in Husbands&Wives, Dianne Wiest in Hannah, Mia Farrow in Crimes&Misdeameanours, Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan, Shelley Duvall in Annie Hall).
Allen's Sandy is unhappy about his place in 'entertainment'- a bit like his character in Manhattan (who declared 'gossip the new pornography' & left his job in TV, a bit like the character in Hannah/Sisters...)- here we have the common maladies that afflict characters in Woody Allen films. This is much more surreal & exagerrated, almost deliberately provocative- a bit like OLiver Stone's Natural Born Killers. The backdrop to Sandy's life shifting from Louis Armstrong to an image of murder in Vietnam, as a dead animal lies in his kitchen...
Stardust Memories is a rather odd film, especially when it's lead character meets aliens, who tell him to stop griping and make films, especially "the early funny ones"- bizarre that Allen claims he doesn't read his criticism! The way this is shot is amazing, the final scenes where we flip from multiple characters to a #1 fan in a Mark Chapman style are of particular note. THe best sequence here remains the sequence where Charlotte Rampling is mentally destroyed in a series of jump cuts- an advance on Bergmanesque territory mapped out in Persona.
Stardust Memories is one of Allen's strangest films, along with Husbands&Wives, Deconstructing Harry & Celebrity, it appears to be very close to the bone, deep into the marrow: but don't worry, it's just a showroom dummy of Woody, not the real guy! ?
It certainly ranks alongside Zelig as his most experimental film of the 80s & deserves to be seen- though I'm not sure that anyone who doesn't enjoy Allen will get anything out of it. In the bitter art film sense, it ranks up there with Scorsese's King of Comedy, Wenders' State of Things & Altman's The Player...
on 24 November 2009
This is one of Woody Allen's more demanding movies, with references in it to his earlier work, a director's relationship with his audience (and his actors) and even a replay of one of the scenes from Annie Hall, this time with Charlotte Rampling rather than Diane Keaton, plus homage to Federico Fellini's baroque style. It demands to be taken seriously, and it marks a shift from the success of the 1970s grown-up humour and exploration of relationships in Annie Hall and even Play it Again Sam into the deeper but perhaps less popular films of the 80s. If you are a fan of Woody Allen, this is a seminal film to own. It has a great jazz based sound-track.
on 22 June 2004
The last of Woody Allen's great string of movies that began with 'Bananas', containing elements of the whimsical fun of 'Love & Death', the structural piercings of 'Annie Hall', and the emotional turbulence of 'Manhattan'. A neglected treat that is stupidly hard to get hold of, but well worth the effort or expense.
This is one of Woody’s more complicated movies and whilst quite stunning to look at and full of his usual wit; it is not easy to follow. It’s probably best not to worry about it too much and just go with the flow!
The story is about a famous director who has a nervous breakdown; he revisits the loves of his life, searching for some harmony and sense to it all. Where ever he goes he is bombarded by his fans for autographs and showered with questions – his manners here are exemplary all things considered – you can certainly see why some stars shun public life?
The plot, if any is told through a series of flashbacks, fantasy sequences, his own movie clips and mental snatches from his breakdown - in no particular order!
We take Woody’s humour for granted of course but the B&W cinematography in this film is quite stunning. It was filmed by Gordon Willis, who has helped make many of Woody’s films, but is most famous for the ‘Godfather’ trilogy.
The ‘shooting’ is most memorable for its ‘Strange Days,’ almost nightmarish, grotesque, close ups of the crowds’ faces, as they surround the popular director in the public areas. It highlights their strange and surreal characteristics – I can still see one woman with outlandishly huge glasses and people with all sorts of ridiculous hair styles, large noses, crooked teeth etc. It’s just fascinating to see and take in. It’s a never ending flow of wonderful caricatures.
This is a film that will linger with you for a long time, and you’ll soon realise that to enjoy it to the max it doesn’t have to make too much sense – as indeed, a breakdown certainly wouldn’t?
This is as good as any of Woody Allen’s 5 star efforts and by his own admission is one of his favourites and is NOT about himself.