Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Twilight Time - STARDUST MEMORIES on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Twilight Time - STARDUST MEMORIES on Blu-ray

STARDUST MEMORIES (1980; Woody Allen)
Woody Allen fans often cite ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN as two of their favorites from him. With A filmography as vast as his though, not all of the good stuff can get the amount of attention it deserves. STARDUST MEMORIES is a prime example. It is by no means forgotten, but I feel like it is really one of Allen's greatest efforts that is so underappreciated that it is only now, in late 2016, finally getting a Blu-ray release. It really is a sort of natural progression from ANNIE HALL to MANHATTAN to STARDUST if you look at the three films in close succession. There's a lot more Fellini going on it and even some Bergman and maybe that makes sure it will land squarely in the art house realm and always have a smaller niche than the more narratively straightforward ways of this precious two movies. That's not to say that ANNIE HALL is by any means a conventional narrative, but it certainly has a broader reach than STARDUST MEMORIES. Interestingly, STARDUST takes from both MANHATTAN and ANNIE HALL and makes a new organism. It has the stylish, crisp, black and white cinematography of MANHATTAN (from legendary DP Gordon Willis) and the mixing flashback surrealism of ANNIE HALL (and also features Tony Roberts as ANNIE HALL did). STARDUST takes these things and wraps them in an quasi-autobiographical take on 8 1/2. In the film, Woody plays a film director who has made his career and become well known with his comedies, but has also branched out into drama and has gotten some critical pushback. He is told several times by fans and critics that they "love his earlier funnier work" - perhaps the most famous sentiment about this film. Woody had obviously struggled to break out of the comedic mold he had cast himself in through years of stand-up and doing funny films (BANANAS, SLEEPER, EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX). Woody hadn't delved too much into serious work at that point except for MANHATTAN and INTERIORS - both of which may have thrown folks for a loop if they were expecting slapstick. So STARDUST MEMORIES is obviously a meditation on that combined with a love of European cinema and how surrealism can really resonate and have a lasting impact on a filmgoer. The plot of STARDUST MEMORIES focuses on the director going to a film festival retrospective of his work. Once there, the movie loses itself in a fractured series of flashbacks involving his relationships with three different women (Charlotte Rampling, Jessica Harper and Marie-Christine Barrault) in the past and seemingly present. The film blends "reality" and dreams and memories into this mobius strip that folds onto itself to the point that you may even feel a bit lost within the pieces of this director's life. I kind of love that about the film though. It is even bookended with some nice little scenes that put a nice twist on everything. While many may see this as a straight Fellini homage or, at the very least, Woody being incredibly self-indulgent like Fellini could be - there is something remarkably captivating about the film. Between the visuals and the dream-like nature of the way the tale is told, it has stuck with me and continues to stay with me for days after I rewatch it. It is really one of those magical, lyrical movies that feels quite refreshing after watching tons of regular three-act structures play out over and over again. It does a wonderful job of demonstrating what the medium can do and plays as quite inspirational in that way. I makes me want to sit down and write a story or something.

For a much more insightful take on the film, I recommend listening to Larry Karaszewski's Trailers From Hell commentary below:

Though the disc's only extra is an isolated score track (a feature that I am quite pleased that Twilight Time continues to include on their discs), it is still well worth getting just to have another gorgeously photographed black and white film on Blu-ray to demonstrate yet again why Gordon Willis was one of the greatest cinematographers in the universe. 

You can buy STARDUST MEMORIES on Blu-ray from Twilight Time here:

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