Woody Allen makes great movies. At times he makes subpar movies. But in my eyes, he’d never made a perfect movie. By all means take that with a pinch of salt, as I’ve yet to see Manhattan, but his output is consistently enjoyable, yet so close to perfection that it’s genuinely annoying that he can’t finalise it. So, it’s a surprise to me that Stardust Memories is the film I regard as his peak.
Its deconstruction of celebrity living is superb. The attention and spotlight set right there in the worst of times. Allen’s leading performance is the right blend of cynicism, neurotic worry and tired stardom that should come from a Woody Allen role. Charlotte Rampling and Jessica Harper round out the supporting performers in a film that’s more centred on Allen than ever before.
By all means is it his most interesting character. The aforementioned deconstruction the celebrity lifestyle really adds an extra layer to an already superb performance. At times Allen’s role as director Sandy Bates feels intentionally aimless, as if he’s at a loss at what he should be doing. This lack of focus means the film is much more free-flowing than any of his other projects, and it works surprisingly well.
Small pieces of camerawork hold together exceptionally well, with the black and white gradient fitting well with a frequently moving camera. Scenes where Allen walks through convention halls, harassed by those that idolise and love his work. It’s some really great scenes, and at times hits close to the truth of the celebrity status.
Allen always asks the same existential, life-threatening questions in his film outputs, but it’s Stardust Memories that captures these thoughts best. A reflective piece that manages to avoid the expected pitfalls of a director starring as a director going through a mid-life crisis. If anything, it feels like this is what The Other Side of the Wind was meant to be, but Stardust Memories has the added bonus of the unique Allen charms.
Maybe my love for this film comes from a break from the norm. The expected weavings of romance and adoration of the often multitude of femme fatales in an Allen movie had grown tiresome, so it was a nice break to see more of a character study than standardised rom-com. Banking on an incredible Allen lead and some phenomenal direction as ever, Stardust Memories is Allen’s finest work to date.