A sharp, satirical look at the high price of fame, Woody Allen's Stardust Memories is a "wickedly funny" (The New York Times) story about a disillusioned filmmaker who is just about at the end of his rope. Sparkling with t... more »he confidence of an artist in full bloom, Stardust Memories is "a film to be seen and savored" (Jeffery Lyons)! Legendary comic filmmaker Sandy Bates (Allen) is tired of being funny. Teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown, Bates attends a weekend retrospective of his films, only to confront the meaning of his work, the memories of his great love, Dorrie (Charlotte Rampling), and the merits of settling down with new girlfriend, Isobel (Marie-Christine Barrault). Plagued by hallucinations, alien visitations and the bloodless studio executives trying to re-cut his bleak new film, Bates struggles to find a reason to go on living. But when he falls prey to a gun-wielding fanatic, his zany brush with death reveals that there is value tohis own existence, and that often, the best reason to go on living is life itself.« less
Check your prejudices at the door -- this is great cinema!
R. David Roe | Hixson, Tennessee United States | 02/09/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why do I choose to waste these few minutes of my life talking about a movie that few people have ever seen and that fewer still want to resurrect? If you mention a "Woody Allen Film" these days, you're bound to elicit one of a few choice conditioned responses - anything from, "Oh, I like his movies, especially the early, funny ones" or "Is he still making films?" The fact is that Woody Allen is one of the great filmmakers to grace the American cinema. Granted, his films today have lost some of their public lustre due to the travails of his personal life and the unbearable political incorrectness of being Woody. Yet fifty years from now, he will be spoken of without hesitation or apology with names such as Kubrick, Ford, Keaton, Spielberg or Malick as one of the greats. Some critics realized this more than twenty years ago and have conveniently forgotten it. But "Stardust Memories", if he never made another film, would insure his place among filmmaking elite. The movie in its time was castigated by critics because it presciently observed them as the high priests of a society which worships culture above art. Culture, of course, changes with the seasons but art is that constant which connects us to each other and the world throughout those changes. Further, it's release coincided with the death of John Lennon. The scene where Sandy Bates is shot by a crazed fan was uncomfortably closer to reality than the comic moment it wished to establish. Great movie, but it's release date just wasn't -- ahem! -- in the stars. "Stardust Memories" is as close to perfect a film as I have ever seen. It borrows the structural approach to its story from Fellini's "8 1/2" but is so true to its own purpose it never seems derivative. It complements the sublime black and white cinematography of Gordon Willis with the patience of a camera that is not afraid to allow subjects to walk in and out of the frame. The camera never feels compelled to chase its subject, nor does the director attempt to artificially superimpose the action of the camera against the actions of the characters. Only in a brief series of jump cuts as we witness Charlotte Rampling telling "us" about her breakdown, do we have "technique" rising above a point of sublimation. And even then the erratic cuts perfectly mirror the emotional instability of the subject. And while I'm on the subject of perfection, the production design of Mel Bourne creates a weekend movie retreat which connects us with a recognition of a lost world we perhaps never knew we'd lost. The splendor of an elegant resort hotel along a 1950's Jersey boardwalk seems in the present day a wistful retreat -- a bit dingy if not slightly tawdry -- a symbol of a promised world once imagined but never quite realized. But every bit equal to the power of the visuals is Allen's remarkable talent for matching period music to sustain mood. Yet I do not wish to speak of the music as the MUZAK. The music here is not used simply to sustain a mood as much as it uses its power to transform the audience into one who lives, for the moment, within the frame. Is there any music with greater power to transmogrify than Django Rinehart's guitar or Louis Armstrong's own version of "Stardust," which, in the end, shows us that the whole meaning of existence, for which some people search their whole lives, can be glimpsed in a single, ephemeral flicker of a moment. For those who travel in darkness, even the briefest glimmer of stars leaves the memory of the unlighted path. "Stardust Memories" sheds for us that kind of light."
Every bit as good as Annie Hall, yet entirely different
Hume An | 02/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To me Stardust Memories is Allen's most beautiful and complex film. It is difficult to express in words the aspects of the film that resonated with me. If one does not pay close attention, and views the film merely with one's eyes and brain, one can miss the beauty of the film. The film is basically about a successful film director named Sandy (Allen) who is sort of forced into going to a film festival of his films. He is very reluctant to do so because he views festivals as a waste of time, and partially because the festival mainly showcases his earlier, funnier films which he is no longer inclined to make. He, instead, wishes to make more deep, serious films. He can no longer make funny films because he is obsessed with the bigger issues of human suffering, death, and the meaning of life. So far, the character Sandy sounds a lot like Allen who initially made only funny films, but moved unto weightier topics, and you are right, it probably is about Allen. However, through the course of the film, we realize that Allen is making much more than a simple diclosure. The film goes a step further by nesting the movie in Sandy's psyche. It is difficult to discern if we are watching a film Sandy made, or watching what really went on during the film festival, or if we are reliving Sandy's memories as a young boy who learned magic tricks to impress friends, or kissed his actress-lover, Dorrie in the rain. Furthermore, the film forces us, the audience, to ask the same troubling questions about life that Sandy confronts. In one scene of the movie, Sandy asks some aliens (who have very conspicuous NY accents) why there is so much human suffering. They answer back by saying he is asking the wrong questions. He asks another question--what is the point of living? The aliens remind Sandy about his love interests in the past and all of the wonderful times they shared. Sandy is dissatisfied with the alien's answers, and the aliens depart before he can find the answer he wants. After the aliens leave, the camera cuts to another scene of three hot air balloons descending. In the background some beautiful, old-timey c.a. WWII music is playing. The viewer realizes that the aliens were a figment of Sandy's yearning for concrete answers about life's troubling questions, and must take the reality of the beautiful image of hot air balloons descending instead. And I think that this is what the film is about. It's about us human beings who do not know and cannot know, really, the answers to the most troubling questions in life, but we learn to live life by hooking on to some of the beautiful realities of life. Whether it is love, beautiful music, or a film about a thoughtful flounderer searching for unfindable answers. Allen does not posit the answer to life, but shows quite honestly that he does not know the answer to life. He only knows that he loves people and music and films. Stardust Memories is Allen's gift to us. It is his offering. It is another thing to help us humans live life in spite of the uncertainty and fear it might engender in us. Through this film, Allen reminds us that we must hold on to the important things in life. We have our memory, we have our love, we have our apprehension of beauty. We may have not have the answers, but at least we have that."
Mid-period Woody that's both funny and thoughtful
Mike Stone | 07/02/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When discussing the two things in this life that man has complete control over, Sandy Bates (Woody Allen) notes that only art and masturbation fall into that category. "Two areas in which I am an absolute expert," he slyly adds. I am so glad Woody included this line. I was just thinking that this film falls neatly into both categories.Oh yes, it is definitely artful. The lush black and white, used so wonderfully in "Manhattan", makes a return engagement here (courtesy of cinematographer Gordon Willis, who again does fine work). Sure, filming in black and white in an era of colour photography can be construed as a tad pretentious, but Woody never lets that get in the way. He strips things down so completely, that you can't help but become engaged with the characters and the issues he's presenting. It's a fine artistic conceit, one that works beautifully. There's a certain surreal quality to the proceedings here, amplified by the jumbled film-with-a-film-within-a-film-within-a-dream-sequence structure. Patience will allow the understanding viewer to make sense of the narrative quite easily. Don't be put off by the art.And sure, the film's themes are highly masturbatory. Can you or I relate to the problems of Woody's celebrity? No, not really. But I feel like I've been given an accurate backstage pass into his world. The army of fans and fanatics that constantly torture pure Sandy with their requests and admiration was portrayed beautifully. There's a definite feeling of claustrophobia that is tangible to the audience, when Woody is barraged by a flurry of autograph pads.The vast supporting cast all do magnificent jobs. It always startles me how Woody can get such natural (or when he needs it, intentionally artificial) performances from his actors. Special mention, of course, should be made for his three leading ladies. Charlotte Rampling as Dorrie, a women who's dynamic only two days of every month and destructive the other twenty-eight, gets the polarities in her character just right. There's one very Godard-like sequence, where jump cuts and dialogue help her portray her particular insanities. She is manic and frustrated, both to perfect degrees. Jessica Harper as Daisy gets to show off many of the same qualities. But there is a touch or morbidity there that shines through in her acting. And Marie-Christine Barrault as Isobel, a woman who's just left her husband to be with Woody, is charming and innocent, with just enough superficiality and brains thrown in so that you understand why Sandy falls for her.Although not as out-and-out hilarious as Woody's "earlier, funnier movies", "Stardust Memories" does have its share of memorable lines (my favourite exchange: "What do you think the Rolls Royce represented?" asks one audience member to another after Sandy's latest opus is screened. "I think it represented his car," comes the befuddled reply). It also shows a willingness to experiment and push the boundaries of Woody's particular brand of filmmaking, so that an alien landing or an assassination attempt doesn't seem that odd (well, yes they do seem odd, but in the context of the world created, not so much). It is most definitely artful, and quite certainly masturbatory. But come to think of it, can't you say that about most Woody Allen movies. I guess this one just wears those qualities on its sleeve a bit more blatantly. Worked for me."
A diamond in the rough, an ignored classic
Mike Stone | 02/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am baffled that this film does not receive more acclaim than it has. In the pantheon of Allen films it easily ranks near the top. Allen made Stardust Memories on the heels of Manhattan and, in my opinion, these two films represent Allen at his artistic peak. The writing, the cinematography, the acting, the music . . . all incredibly well done. One of my all-time favorites."
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 01/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Stardust Memories is a brilliant tribute to Fellini and Bergman that still manages to give us some of that classic Woody Allen humor every so often to lighten things up just a bit. The plot moves along at a good pace and I enjoyed the flashbacks that are interjected so masterfully into the film. The convincing acting held my attention all the way and the black and white footage is very tastefully done.
The action begins when overstressed movie director Sandy Bates (Woody Allen) is pushed into attending a two day film festival in his honor. At the festival they show his "funny films;" and Bates is lauded for that by his adoring--and endlessly pestering--fans who want many more comedies from Bates. Trouble is, however, that Sandy Bates no longer wants to make funny movies. Instead, he now prefers to make artistic, meaningful movies that reflect the human condition--or perhaps Sandy may even want to quit the film industry altogether and go into some type of profession in which he can help other people.
There are not one, not two, but three women in Sandy's life. His relationship with his former lover Dorrie (Charlotte Rampling) is portrayed very well in flashbacks; and his current romance with Isobel (Marie-Christine Barrault) is a bit shaky at times but it's still ongoing. Sandy also flirts with another woman he meets at the film festival; he likes Daisy's (Jessica Harper) artistic and sensitive qualities.
Look for excellent performance by Tony Roberts who plays himself; and Helen Hanft plays Vivian Orkin, the "MC" of the film festival.
Overall, if you've seen Fellini's 8 1/2, you're going to appreciate this film more than if you haven't. At the same time, however, other people will still get a lot out of this even if they haven't seen 8 1/2. I highly recommend this film for Woody Allen fans and people who enjoy artistic cinema with very high quality control. "