Blu-ray Review: Stardust Memories - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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Twilight Time has been steadily bringing Woody Allen's catalog into the high definition arena. Such classics as Broadway Danny Rose, Zelig, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and more have debuted on Blu-ray via TT's Limited Edition Series (3,000 units issued). The latest is Stardust Memories (1980), Allen's acerbic Fellini homage (at least in part; there's plenty of Woody in this film). Allen stars as film director Sandy Bates, an artist frustrated by continually being shoehorned as a comedian. In light of then-recent Allen films (most notably 1978's widely underrated Interiors, due in February from Twilight Time), many critics (and even more fans) lamented the relative scarcity of Allen's goofier side. Stardust mirrors these complaints through its depiction of garish, nagging critics and various hangers-on.

But as serious as some of Stardust may be there's still plenty of sharp, often pointed humor. The non-linear structure feels simultaneously like a send-up of art-house pretentiousness and a liberating palette for Allen to explore relationship issues. Specifically, those relationships involve Dorrie (Charlotte Rampling), Daisy (Jessica Harper) and Isobel (Marie-Christine Barrault). His time with the emotionally troubled Dorrie is glimpsed via flashbacks. Dorrie is the one that got away, for however tumultuous their relationship may have been she is the one lingering longest in Sandy's mind. 

rsz_stardust_memories_booklet.png Allen received considerable blow back from critics and fans alike for his depiction of Sandy's generally low opinion of his audience. Apparently Allen resisted claims that Stardust was indeed autobiographical, but it's hard to believe there wasn't a great deal of Allen's own personal sentiment laced throughout. As Sandy grapples with producers who are unsatisfied with the bleakness of his latest, in-production film, it becomes clear in retrospect that Allen didn't exorcise his creative demons with Stardust. More than two decades later he'd revisit some of the same bitterness in Hollywood Ending. But by then he'd lost much of his edge. And passion. Stardust Memories isn't Allen's easiest film to love, but it pays dividends for those who are patient with it. As with so many of Allen's best works, this one requires multiple viewings to fully appreciate.

The new Twilight Time Blu-ray is a clear-cut improvement over the old DVD edition. Cinematographer Gordon Willis (1931-2014), a frequent Allen collaborator who shot Manhattan among others, is done proud here. His black-and-white visuals are stunning. Audio is presented as a simple DTS-HD MA mono track. Features are limited to an isolated music track, theatrical trailer, and film historian Julie Kirgo's liner notes essay.

Woody Allen collectors, proceed to Screen Archives or the official Twilight Time website for ordering information (while supplies last).


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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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