Thursday, September 6, 2007

Stardust Memories

Stardust Memories; Tragicomedy, USA, 1980; D: Woody Allen, S: Woody Allen, Marie-Christine Barrault, Charlotte Rampling, Jessica Harper, Tony Roberts, Amy Wright, Helen Haft, Daniel Stern, Sharon Stone

Sandy Bates is a director known for comedies, but currently he is making his new film - a drama. The producers are not satisfied with the surreal film at all. At the same time, Sandy is sent to a film festival where critics are going to talk about his movies. Also, he is torn between two women, nervous actress Dorrie and smart Daisy. When he falls in love with Isobel, a French woman, she thinks about divorcing her husband for him and taking her two children to him. Sandy gets shot and enters a mental trip, but returns healthy to admit Isobel his love. Then he gets the inspiration to finish his film.

Woody Allen somehow always divided the wider audience: people familiar with Hollywood Beaus like Pitt, Clooney or Brando felt annoyed by his "ugly" appearance and nervous gestures. But Allen really has to be given credit - after all, he directed 14 excellent films, three of which are masterworks ("Annie HaII", "Hannah and her Sisters", "Crimes and Misdemeanors") and dared to show the other side of life, an intellectual outsider living a turbulent life without glamour. "Stardust Memories" ironically acted as an Allen film that divided even that narrow audience of his fans, some of which called it great while others dismissed it as pretentious disappointment, even though Allen himself said it was one of his 3 personal favorite films, besides "Cairo" and "Match Point". "Stardust" is an genius rip-off of Fellini's "Eight and a Half", copying the famous director from the surreal tone to the satirical auto-referential jabs, serving as an worthy homage. People who loved "Eight and a Half" will also love "Stardust", or they lied that they loved it and just pretended to enjoy it to blend in with the other critics.

The story is deliberately hard to understand, chopped up and confusing at times, mixing fantasy with realism: already in the opening dream sequence of the main hero Sandy as passenger in a train where he is trying to get out and then walks around a phantasmagorical beach, realized without any dialogues, is a brilliant lesson learned from both Bergman and Fellini and serves as the best exposition in any Allen film. Even later on does the film stand out as an extremely untypical example for the director's opus, filled with surreal moments (a kid flies up in the air like Superman, a black Yeti kidnaps a woman...) but the author still gives it few juicy touches of humor: in one scene, Sandy says: "For you, I'm an atheist. But for God, I'm a loyal opposition!" After the premiere of his newest film, one woman is discussing it with some man: "What do you think does the Rolls Royce symbolize in the film?" - "Maybe it stands for his car". In the bizarre sequence, while a woman is posthumously praising Sandy who was killed, saying: "He will continue to live in our memories!", his shadow appears on the background of the screening of some volcano eruption and comments: "But what does that mean when I can't pinch a woman's butt anymore?" Allen is an unusual, demanding and heavy author, but some of his films are really small jewels of slices of life where at moments almost anything can happen.


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