Stardust Memories  

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"Woody Allen sits in a railroad car with ugly, unhappy and grotesque-looking people. In a train on a platform next to him he sees beautiful, successful and happy people. One of the women (Sharon Stone) sees him and kisses the window in his direction. In vain he tries to leave the train. The 'beautiful people' train sets off. Woody's train too. Next scene the passenger's of Woody's train are wandering aimlessly with Woody on a garbage dump."

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Stardust Memories is a 1980 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Woody Allen, Charlotte Rampling, Jessica Harper, Marie-Christine Barrault and (a then-unknown) Sharon Stone in her film debut. The film is about a filmmaker who recalls his life and his loves—the inspirations for his films—while attending a retrospective of his work. Allen considers this to be one of his best films, along with The Purple Rose of Cairo and Match Point. The film is shot in black and white and is reminiscent of Federico Fellini's (1963), which it parodies.

The film was nominated for a Writers Guild of America award for Best Comedy written directly for screen. Allen denies that this film is autobiographical and has expressed regret that audiences interpreted it as such. "[Critics] thought that the lead character was me," the director is quoted as saying in Woody Allen on Woody Allen [see Further Reading, below]. "Not a fictional character but me, and that I was expressing hostility towards my audience. That was in no way the point of the film. It was about a character who is obviously having a sort of nervous breakdown and, in spite of success, has come to a point in his life where he is having a bad time."



The film follows famous filmmaker Sandy Bates, who is plagued by fans who prefer his "earlier, funnier movies" to his more recent artistic efforts, while he tries to reconcile his conflicting attraction to two very different women: the earnest, intellectual Daisy and the more maternal Isobel. Meanwhile, he is also haunted by memories of his ex-girlfriend, the unstable Dorrie.



The conflict between the maternal, nurturing woman and the earnest, usually younger one, is a recurring theme in Allen's films. Like many of Allen's films, Stardust Memories incorporates several jazz recordings including those by such notables as Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, and Chick Webb. The film's title alludes to the famous take of "Stardust" recorded in 1931 by Armstrong, wherein the trumpeter sings "oh, memory" three times in succession. However, it is the master take that plays in the movie during the sequence where Sandy is remembering the best moment of his life: looking at Dorrie while listening to Armstrong's recording of the song.

The film deals with issues regarding religion, God, and philosophy; especially existentialism, psychology, symbolism, wars and politics. It is also about realism, relationships, and death. It refers to many questions about the meaning of life. It also ruminates on the role that luck plays in life, a theme Allen would revisit in Match Point.


Filming locations

From the sleevenotes of MGM's 2000 DVD release: "Shot on location in the fall of 1979, Stardust Memories may look as though it takes place in a Victorian-style seaside hotel, but it was actually shot at the Ocean Grove Great Auditorium and the Methodist Episcopal Conference Center and Concert Hall in New Jersey. Most of the interiors, including the bedroom scenes, were shot in a vacant Sears Roebuck building, but the crew also recreated a vintage train at Filmways Studio in Harlem. To reproduce the movement of a rail car, the whole train was mounted on jacks and gently jostled back and forth."


The film sharply divided both audiences and critics, with many Allen fans proclaiming it his best picture or among his worst. In Diane Jacobs' But We Need the Eggs: The Magic of Woody Allen (St Martin's Press, 1982), the director is quoted as saying: "Shortly after Stardust Memories opened, John Lennon was shot by the very guy who had asked him for his autograph earlier in the day… This is what happens with celebrities: one day people love you; the next day they want to kill you."

Box office

Stardust Memories opened in North America on September 26, 1980 to an onslaught of bad reviews. At 29 theatres, it grossed $326,779 ($11,268 per screen) in its opening weekend. The film failed to attract more than Allen's loyal fanbase in the long run, and it grossed a modest $10,389,003 by the end of its run. The film's budget was $10 million, so it likely made a profit after foreign revenue was taken into account.


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Stardust Memories" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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