Stardust Memories seems to divide opinion, the film was critically panned on its release and failed at the box office. The film was as a departure from some of Woody Allen’s earlier comedic work instead the movie resembles a more sombre tone similar to a film like ‘Interiors’ which he directed before moving on to Stardust Memories.
Stardust Memories seemed to alienate the majority of Woody Allen fans who had a certain expectation when going to watch one of his movies. Personally I think the film is a masterpiece and in my opinion is one of Woody Allen’s funniest.
“I’ve had six chauffeurs in two years. You get me drunks, guys who can’t understand English, one guy ran over an old lady with me in the car and now this guy is wanted for mail fraud”
“What do you think the Rolls Royce represented?”
“I think it represented his car”
Stardust Memories has aged like a fine wine holding up brilliantly over the years. The film is viewed a lot more favourable nowadays compared to its release and in recent years the movie has been reassessed as one of Allen’s finest.
Stardust Memories is complex and it requires multiple viewings before the movie begins to shine. The film uses flashbacks to establish its characters and their relationships, the narrative feels almost dreamlike seemingly drifting back and forth in time without a hitch.
Woody Allen stars as Sandy Bates, a filmmaker who is famous for directing comedy films. Fans of his work frequently approach him telling him they love his “earlier, funnier movies”. Bates doesn’t want to make funny movies anymore instead he wants to produce more serious work and say something tangible in his art.
Sandy receives an invitation to a weekend retrospective celebrating his earlier work, he reluctantly accepts the offer. On arrival Sandy is greeted by an endless waves of fans who constantly harass him for autographs, pictures and charity donations.
“Are you Sandy Bates?”
“Yes, you are”
“No-n-n-n-n-no, I’m not”
“My mother buys meat in the same butcher shop your mother does”
“Can I have your autograph?”
“Could you just write: to Phyllis Weinstein, you unfaithful, lying bitch”
The weekend proves to be a time of reflection for Sandy, he recalls his past romances, his memories of childhood and he contemplates the purpose of his life. It is clear Sandy is a conflicted character, he seems frustrated with his life and nothing satisfies him. He is clearly wrestling with some personal demons and despite all of his success none of it has made him truly happy.
“The film was about a character who is obviously having a sort of breakdown and in spite of success, has come to point in his life where he is having a bad time.”
“His failed relationship and his more successful one and his life you see it through his art, his movies and his fantasies. In the end it never saved him, he was despite of his success a very unhappy person” said Allen.
We observe Sandy’s relationship with Dorrie (Charlotte Rampling), the two met on the production of one his films and the two hit it off immediately. He seems struck by her beauty and the couple quickly fall in love. She is an intelligent women who on the surface appears confident and assured. Dorrie oozes class and she has a very sensual quality.
Underneath Dorrie is a complete wreck emotionally who constantly questions herself. She is terrified by the prospect of putting on weight and ending up alone, she is depressed and mentally unstable. Sandy constantly tries to reassure her but his efforts seem to be in vain. The two eventually parted ways but we do learn they remained friends.
Sandy looks back on this relationship with a feeling of warmth and happiness, He recalls sitting around with Dorrie in his apartment and the song ‘Stardust’ by Louis Armstrong playing along on the radio. Sandy happens to glance over at her while she is reading and for a brief moment he feels truly happy, she looks up at him and smiles before returning to her book.
“It was one of those spring days, it was Sunday, and you knew summer was coming soon. And I remember that morning Dorrie and I had gone for a walk in the park and come back to my apartment. We were just sort of sitting around and I put on a record by Louis Armstrong which was music I grew up and it was very, very pretty.
And I happened to glance over and I saw Dorrie sitting there. And I remember thinking how wonderful she was and how much I loved her. and I don’t know, I guess it was just a combination of everything, the sound of the music and the breeze, and how beautiful Dorrie looked to me and for one brief moment everything just seemed to come together perfectly and I felt happy, almost indestructible in a way. It’s funny, that simple moment of contact moved me in a very profound way.”
Charlotte Rampling is absolutely wonderful as Dorrie, She plays a character who is broken and depressed and you buy every second of it. There is a fantastic jump cut sequence where Rampling shows off her wide range of acting talents, she transitions from a calm and collected women into an emotional mess.
His current romance Isobel (Marie Christine-Barrault) is a mature and nurturing woman. She is older and assured, she is opinionated and very passionate, she is definitely the more solid and reliable partner compared to Dorrie but she comes with some baggage. Isobel is married to another man and she has two children, she plans to leave her husband and live with Sandy instead, however when the time comes for her to make a decision she backs out leaving Sandy to question their relationship.
Isobel seems to be the ideal match for Sandy and she will be there for him when you he really needs it, he just doesn’t know it yet.
To escape from all the chaos Sandy finds some piece with Daisy (Jessica Harper) and her boyfriend Jack (John Rothman). The trio go out for a quiet drink and they discuss their occupations. Jack is a film lecturer who is of course a big fan of Sandy’s work, Daisy is a talented violin player who is very shy and insecure.
Sandy and Daisy are left alone for a brief moment and she brings up the fact he has been staring at her all evening. He tells her she reminds him of somebody else and they seem to have chemistry. The two come across each other again and they end up getting lost in a forest together. They encounter a group of UFO followers who are convinced aliens are going to invade the earth.
They turn out to be right.
A lot of critics viewed Sandy Bates as a fictional version of Woody Allen.
“(Critics) thought that the lead character was me and that I was expressing hostility towards my audience. That was in no way the point of the film”
I found Stardust Memories to be a massive challenge to write about, I absolutely adore the movie but I certainly wouldn’t call it perfect. The film was a massive risk for Woody Allen and in the end didn’t really pay off, which is a shame because I think the film stands alongside some of Allen’s finest work.
Like the title says I love Stardust Memories and so does Woody Allen. He considers it to be one of his finest films and I would agree.
I would like to credit Trailers from hell, Splandigo and thatscenefrom.com for the videos provided in this blog. The relevant links are below.