Stardust Memories (1980)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Stardust Memories</strong> (1980)

(On TV, March 2017) As a filmmaker spends an entire movie being confronted by fame and the way fans bemoan his “earlier, funnier movies”, it’s hard not to read Stardust Memories as Woody Allen’s own commentary on his career at the time. Despite his noted denials that the film is autobiographical, it’s clearly influenced by his experience, even as a funhouse version of it. The scenes in which he’s bombarded by one request after another remain brutally effective as a distillation of what life as this level of celebrity must be. There’s quite a bit of Hollywood satire as well, as the studio keeps meddling with his latest work and as nearly everyone (even aliens) seem to agree that his earlier movies were funnier. As to whether Stardust Memories is good…. Well, the movie is acknowledged as divisive among Allen fans, and it’s easy to see why: shot in black-and-white, jumping seamlessly from reality to fantasy and from present to past, it’s both a meditation on fame and a film about romantic choices. It’s self-reflective, maybe self-indulgent and there’s a melancholic quality to the movie that coexists with the various jokes. There’s even some contempt for the audience to make thing even more layered. I found it interesting but not gripping: I certainly laughed unexpectedly at a few spots (and I’m not talking chuckles or grins, but real barks of laughter), which is more than I can say about most so-called comedies out there. At the same time, this is obviously not just a comedy, and given that I’m still piecing together a coherent picture of Allen’s career, I feel reasonably confident in saying that I don’t yet have all the information I need to process Stardust Memories to its fullest extent. I’ll give it a cautiously positive rating so far, subject to revision whenever I’m able to speak knowledgeably of Allen’s early and mid-career.

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