Yes, dear readers, it finally happened; I saw a movie with the word ‘star’ in it, and it was not science fiction.
Shocker, but on with the show.
In “Stardust Memories,” writer and director Woody Allen puts his super-famous heart on his sleeve for all to see, and it’s an ugly site to behold.
Allen plays Sandy Bates, a comedy director who is trying to move in a more serious direction, to the consternation of studio-heads and fans everywhere. Constantly, he’s told that his “early, funny” films are the best things he’s ever done, so he shouldn’t do anything else.
He’s frustrated and he’s angry, but he has to keep that all inside; he can’t risk letting anyone in real life see his unfiltered inner thoughts (in his films, they go over with laughs and smiles). So, with great reluctance Sandy finds himself at a small film festival, held in his honor, where all his adoring fans can see and comment on his life’s work.
Also thrown into this mess is Sandy’s romantic life. He keeps daydreaming of Dorrie (Charlotte Rampling), an unstable actress he discovered and then fell in love with. It ended, we learn later why, but he keeps longing for the excitement he had with her. In real life, he’s got Isobel (Marie-Christine Barrault), a charming and stable woman who’s left her husband to be with him. He loves her, maybe, but he’s not interested in what she’s offering: a real, adult relationship.
And here’s where the ugly part comes in; Sandy (read Woody) hates his celebrity. He hates the stream of praise from his fans, their constant presence, always looking for a piece of him to keep for themselves. Throughout the film, the fans are always there, looking for an autograph, a picture, a recommendation, a night of empty sex.
But Sandy may hate the fame, but not enough to give it up. It’s what he’s always wanted, to make movies, to be famous, to have people look only at him. He’s created this monster, and for better or worse, he sticks with it; how could he go back to obscurity?
Sandy opens the film on a train; all around him sit glum and ugly folk, but through the window, he can see another train filled with happy and beautiful people, partying the trip away. He scrambles to get over there, but he’s too late; the trains have left, he’s stuck where he is. Sandy (again, read Woody) has lived his entire life looking for the better, more fun path, and he never learned to enjoy the ride he’s on.
“Stardust Memories” is disjointed, self-pitying, indulgent filmmaking. It’s also an unseemly look at a level of fame most people will never achieve. With all its pretentions, fake sets, and rambling plot, the film is an ugly look at Allen’s heart, but it’s an honest one. He’s never been more open; with all the Hollywood crap we see over and over again, it’s something worth seeing.
“Stardust Memories” (1980)
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen (Sandy Bates)
Marie-Christine Barrault (Isobel)
Charlotte Rampling (Dorrie)