Sandy Bates (Woody Allen) is a director who is attending a retrospective on his past works. He's currently working on a new film (which all of his producers consider "pretentious", "overdone", and not as good as his "funny ones"). He meets a plethora of fans (all of whom are presented as being oddballs and eccentrics). He also encounters some interesting characters like Tony (Tony Roberts) and an actor (Daniel Stern) who wants to break into movies. Bates considers his work while at the festival and what it is he wants out of life as an artist.
During the retrospective, Bates reflects on the loves of his life and how they have inspired him: Dorrie (Charlotte Rampling), a neurotic and passionate lover whom he regrets no longer being with, Isobel (Marie-Christine Barrault), a more sensible former-girlfriend (but whom he wasn't as enamored with as Dorrie), and Daisy (Jessica Harper), a festival attendee whom he starts to fall for during the retrospective. Like Fellini's 8 1/2 the film intertwines the relationships of the filmmaker with the artistic side of creation.
One of the interesting things about Stardust Memories is it's metaphorical aspect. The film has some interesting symbolic imagery throughout: the move from comedy icons on Sandy Bates walls to more serious icons (suggesting Allen's own transition towards drama). Yet the film pokes fun at this as well (as a character says during the film: "What's the symbolism for the Ferrari?" and receives the response of "It symbolizes his car!")
The film was met with some critical disdain and disappointment from some of Allen's biggest fans. At the time, some fans must have considered it insulting because he presents his fans as largely eccentric. Ironically, Allen's basically making an argument for his own eccentricities. Allen's more critical of himself as a filmmaker than he is of his fan base.
Stardust Memories marks a turning point in the filmmaker's career. After creating several hits in preceding years with Manhattan (1979), Annie Hall (1977), and Love and Death (1975), fans were surprised by his growing turn away from making comedies (most especially from his Bergman-inspired Interiors).
Sandy Bates is a filmmaker questioning his worth as an artist: he strives for finding meaning in life and relevance in art. Bates wants to be more than a "comedian who tells jokes" but that's all that Bates thinks his fans want from him. It's as though Allen himself was getting sick of telling jokes. (Bates is even visited by aliens during the film who also agree that he should "tell better jokes" if he wants to help aid society.)
Allen's trying to find a way to transition towards dramatic storytelling: to move away from his history of slapstick stand-up comedy. It's interesting in the filmography of Allen as his films have gradually become more serious over the course of his career (and have become more accepted by audiences for having a mixture of comedy and drama over time).
From a production standpoint, Stardust Memories is fantastic all around. The production design by Mel Bourne (Manhattan, The Fisher King) is excellent and adds to the authentic style of filmmaking. Costume designs by Santo Loquasto (Blue Jasmine, Bullets over Broadway) contribute to the artistic success of the film with great style.
One of the best aspect of the film's visual success is the cinematography by Gordon Willis (The Godfather, Annie Hall), which presents fantastic, lush black and white cinematography that is perfectly reminiscent of the great Italian and French cinema of the 60's and 70's. This is a beautiful film and one which really brings to mind the best of the new wave cinema.
The music is comprised of jazz selections which perfectly compliment the tone and style of the filmmaking. Stardust Memories has a wonderful soundtrack which aids the film's often surreal style. The music helps shape the surreal movements between the festival and Bate's reflections into his relationships.
Written and directed by Woody Allen, Stardust Memories is a fascinating piece of cinema that represents another turning point for the filmmaker. The film might have been considered less than his previous efforts during its original theatrical release but today it seems like a highly relevant transitional film between the two styles of Allen: the comedic and the serious. It's a beautiful looking film that fans of Allen should certainly consider as worthy in filmmaker's career.
Stardust Memories is presented on Blu-ray from Twilight Time with a stellar 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. This is a faithful high-definition presentation of the film (which retains a naturally filmic appearance with fine grain) but the presentation also looks sharp, clean, and robust with nice blacks and color depth. The film looks beautiful in high-def. This is a fine presentation of the film. Another excellent release of an Allen film by Twilight Time that fans will consider as worthwhile.
The audio quality is quite impressive. The film retains the original 1.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack and preserves the sound design. Though the film won't sound as sparkling crisp as a modern production, the film has generally nice fidelity for its age. Dialogue is clean and easy to understand. The jazz music sounds reasonably nice and works well with the sound design.
Subtitles are provided in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing).
Please Note: This is a Region Free Blu-ray release.
This release includes a booklet featuring an essay by Julie Kirgo.
On disc supplements include:
Isolated Score Track in DTS-HD Master Audio
Original Theatrical Trailer
Stardust Memories is an excellent Woody Allen film which marks another turn from the filmmaker's more slapsticky comedic films towards being a serious dramatic storyteller.
Twilight Time's Blu-ray release of the film is incredible with excellent PQ and AQ. Fans should consider it worth owning.