Often cited by Woody Allen as one of the films of which he’s proudest, Stardust Memories is both a homage to Federico Fellini’s 8½ and what many people assumed (although Allen denied) was a much closer-to-home portrait of a great comic filmmaker fearing creative burnout.
Sandy Bates (Allen) is not only tired of being funny, he may even be teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown. At a retrospective of his films, in between toe-curlingly stupid questions from his audiences, he’s forced to confront not only the meaning of his work but also past and present relationships with Dorrie (Charlotte Rampling), Daisy (Jessica Harper) and Isobel (Marie-Christine Barrault). Plagued by hallucinations, alien visitations and philistine studio executives trying to change his bleak new film into something more conventionally crowd-pleasing, Sandy struggles to find a reason to go on living.
This howl of rage against the price of fame and the pressures of creative expectations is one of Allen’s most complex and challenging films – and one that richly rewards repeated viewing.
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